No Spiritual “Energy Crisis” for Discreet Ones
TODAY there is an “energy crisis” in many lands. For some people this means reduced travel by automobile, since gasoline is in short supply. Fuel is also needed to operate mammoth generators that produce electricity. Hence, many people try to conserve energy by turning off unnecessary lights.
Nevertheless, there is light that does not depend on commonly used energy sources. Grateful ones who possess it refuse to extinguish their light or even to reduce its intensity. Spiritually speaking, they ‘let their light shine.’—Matt. 5:14-16.
Jesus Christ had them in mind when he likened the kingdom of God to ten virgins who were invited to a wedding feast. His parable was part of an answer to the question: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) The evidence proves that we now live in the “last days,” so the fulfillment of the foretold “sign” should intrigue us.
All ten virgins had lamps, perhaps vessels with a spout and a wick at one end and a handle at the other. These may have been filled with olive oil, then commonly used for illumination. Because the bridegroom delayed, the virgins slept, only to be aroused in the middle of the night with the announcement that he was coming. The five “discreet” virgins had additional oil in receptacles they carried, but the “foolish” ones brought no extra oil and had to go off to buy some. Meanwhile, the “discreet” virgins met the bridegroom and went in with him to the wedding feast. The “foolish” virgins later sought entry, but in vain.—Matt. 25:1-12.
The glorified Jesus Christ is the “bridegroom,” and the “discreet” virgins become his heavenly “bride,” finally numbering 144,000. (Rev. 14:1-4; 19:7, 8; 20:6; 21:9) While on earth, they have abundant “oil,” God’s Word and his holy spirit. So they suffer from no spiritual “energy crisis” that could affect a lamp. The “foolish” virgins, though, have lacked sufficient “oil” to keep their lamps burning from the time that the first “joint heirs with Christ” were spiritually begotten on Pentecost of 33 C.E. until the Bridegroom appeared and would go in to the marriage feast.—Rom. 8:17.
AWAITING THE BRIDEGROOM
All ten symbolic virgins slept for a time. (Matt. 25:5) But during those centuries there must have been some stirrings, especially by the “discreet” virgins. Particularly was this so after the religious awakening of the early sixteenth century C.E., when a strenuous effort was made in Europe to return to the Holy Scriptures as the sole book of divine truth. Christ the Bridegroom’s promise to return impressed sincere Bible students, who realized that this would precede the millennium marked by Satan’s confinement in the “abyss.”—Rev. 20:1-6.
During the first half of the eighteenth century, Lutheran theologian Johann Albrecht Bengel of Germany predicted that the millennium would start in 1836. Later, in the United States, William Miller taught his own followers that Christ would appear in the flesh and take them to their heavenly home in 1843. Yet, those dates passed without incident, and the writings or expressions of neither Bengel nor Miller proved to be the foretold midnight cry: “Here is the bridegroom! Be on your way out to meet him.”
In the 1870’s, however, a small group of men not affiliated with Christendom’s sects began studying the Bible at Pittsburgh (Allegheny), Pennsylvania. Among them was Charles Taze Russell. They learned that Christ would return as a spirit and that this would begin an invisible presence made manifest by visible evidences.
Those Bible students associated the “times of the Gentiles” spoken of by Jesus with the “seven times” mentioned in Daniel. (Luke 21:24, King James Version; Dan. 4:16, 23, 25, 32) They understood that those “seven times” of earth’s domination by the Gentiles began in the late seventh century B.C.E. and would run for 2,520 years. Accordingly, twenty-four-year-old C. T. Russell contributed an article to the Bible Examiner of October 1876, in which he wrote: “The seven times will end in A.D. 1914.”
In 1877, Russell joined Nelson H. Barbour in publishing the book Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World. It indicated that the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 would be preceded by a forty-year period to open with a three-and-a-half-year harvest beginning in 1874 C.E. According to Bible chronology thereafter adopted, it was understood that 6,000 years of man’s existence on earth ended in 1872, whereas six millenniums of human sin concluded and the seventh millennium began in 1874. Christ’s presence was thought to have begun in October 1874, at the start of the great antitypical Jubilee.—Lev. chap. 25; Rev. 20:4.*
From that understanding, it was thought that the “chaste virgin” class began going forth to meet the Bridegroom in 1874. (2 Cor. 11:2) Hence, when C. T. Russell began publishing a new religious magazine in July 1879, it was called “Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.” It was heralding Christ’s presence as having begun in 1874. This invisible presence was expected to continue until the Gentile Times ended in 1914, when the Gentile nations would be destroyed and the remnant of the “chaste virgin” class would be glorified with their Bridegroom in heaven by death and resurrection to live in the spirit. (1 Cor. 15:42-44) Thus would the “discreet virgin” class enter through the door into the wedding.
The “chaste virgin” class endeavored to let their light shine as they approached the time when they expected to meet their Bridegroom in heaven. Finally, that day arrived—October 1, 1914. The Gentile Times ended, but the anticipated heavenly glorification of the church did not come about. In fact, it had not occurred by the time Russell himself died on October 31, 1916. Rather, great trouble and persecution came upon those desirous of meeting the Bridegroom. A climax was reached in the summer of 1918, when the Watch Tower Society’s new president, J. F. Rutherford, and seven other Christian men associated with headquarters were unjustly convicted and imprisoned.
J. F. Rutherford spent only nine months in prison, not twenty years, as sentenced. He and his seven associates were released on March 25, 1919, and eventually they were exonerated completely. But the year 1919 was significant for another reason. As the slumbering virgins were aroused by the midnight cry that the bridegroom was coming, so in 1919 C.E. the fact of the heavenly Bridegroom’s presence in the Kingdom was thrust upon all who claimed to be virgins awaiting him.
PUTTING THEIR “LAMPS” IN ORDER
Immediately efforts were made to strengthen the courage of true Christians who had been looking for the Bridegroom. A general convention was held at Cedar Point, Ohio, on September 1-8, 1919. Tremendous enthusiasm was built up on September 5, when President J. F. Rutherford announced publication of a new magazine, The Golden Age, from October 1, 1919, onward. God’s “consecrated” people were encouraged to take part in getting subscriptions for it, looking to the time when 4,000,000 copies of an issue would be circulated. Today, named “Awake!,” this journal has an average printing of well over 8,000,000 copies an issue.
Certainly, 1919 was of no little consequence in the history of God’s “chaste virgin” class. A great worldwide Kingdom-preaching work then got under way. The “discreet virgin” class was aroused at that time and has not gone to sleep since!
That truly was when “all those virgins rose and put their lamps in order.” (Matt. 25:7) The lamps were about to go out. Whereas the “discreet” virgins had receptacles filled with oil, the “foolish” virgins had no extra oil. Yet, the “discreet” ones could not share their oil, for the divided supply of all ten would then have given out. So the “foolish” virgins had to depart and try to buy oil somewhere at that late hour.
The symbolic “oil” pictures God’s Word and his holy spirit, which illuminates that Word and produces in possessors of the “oil” the godly “fruitage of the spirit.” Refusing to divide their “oil” with the “foolish” virgins means that the “discreet” virgins will not compromise with that class. The “foolish” virgins profess Christianity, yet do not meet its requirements. They may be influenced somewhat by their Bible knowledge, but not to the point of having God’s powerful spirit in them and producing its fruitage. Though they expect to go to heaven, their religious development does not enable them to meet the challenge of the midnight cry: “Here is the bridegroom! Be on your way out to meet him.” They have an illuminating-oil crisis. Theirs is a light that fails.
In 1919 the “discreet virgin” class acted to get out of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. They could not compromise with the “foolish virgin” class, as by joining Babylon the Great in worshiping the ‘image of the wild beast,’ the League of Nations, which Babylon the Great made her riding mount in 1919. (Rev. 13:14, 15; 14:11, 12; 17:1-18; 18:4) Their unequivocal stand was made clear at the Cedar Point convention on September 7, 1919, when J. F. Rutherford gave the public address “The Hope for Distressed Humanity.” In it he boldly pointed out God’s disapproval of the League of Nations, which the clergy endorsed as a political expression of God’s kingdom on earth. The “discreet virgin” class had the faith that the kingdom of God’s Son had been established in heaven at the close of the Gentile Times in 1914, and they refused to recognize and worship any substitute. They could not afford to give away any of their spiritual “oil” and reduce the measure of their devotion to God’s Messianic kingdom.
The “discreet virgin” class thus met the glorious Bridegroom in 1919 and have continued as part of the procession that honors him down to the end. When they reach the “door,” they prove worthy of admission. The Bridegroom finds them shining with the Christian personality and therefore accepts these “discreet” virgins of today as part of the Christian congregation.—2 Cor. 11:2, 3; Eph. 5:27.
CONFRONTED BY A CLOSED DOOR
Upon returning, the “foolish” virgins found the door closed. (Matt. 25:10) But, in the fulfillment, when is it officially shut? When the “great tribulation” breaks out and destruction starts upon Christendom and all the rest of Babylon the Great. Then it will be too late for professed Christians to get out of her. By that time, too, the full number of the 144,000 “chosen ones” making up Christ’s “bride” will have been completed.—Matt. 24:21, 22.
The parable concludes with the words: “Afterwards the rest of the virgins also came, saying, ‘Sir, sir, open to us!’ In answer he said, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you.’” (Matt. 25:11, 12) Because of their negligence resulting in a spiritual “oil crisis,” the “foolish” virgins had not met the bridegroom or added any brilliance to his marriage procession. Certainly, then, he was justified in keeping the door locked to them.
Likewise, when the “great tribulation” begins upon Christendom, the “foolish virgin” class will discern that they have not been associated with the religious organization that makes up the “chaste virgin,” “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Rev. 21:9) Yes, they will call out to the Bridegroom, but the door will not be opened, for Jesus said on another occasion: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” (Matt. 7:21-23) In the “great tribulation” the Bridegroom will leave the “foolish virgin” class outside in the blackness of the world’s deepest night, to perish with all other “workers of lawlessness.” From their destruction they will have no resurrection to heavenly life.
“KEEP ON THE WATCH”
Jesus emphasized the point of his parable with timely words for anointed Christians living at the “conclusion of the system of things.” He said: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matt. 25:13) Those who wish to be like the five “discreet” virgins must shine continually with an active Christian personality. They dare not compromise with those who would take away some or much of their spiritual “oil.” Their faith in the Bridegroom’s arrival and presence must continue bright, and they need to remain in the shining procession that follows his steps until he brings his bridal congregation completely home.
The long delay in the Bridegroom’s arrival has ended. He is here, in his glorious presence. The time for drowsiness and sleep is past! Now is the time to shine in his honor and to rejoice with him in the joy his heavenly Father has set before him, that of taking his spiritual “bride” to himself and celebrating this with a marriage feast. Spirit-anointed Christians, therefore, must keep on the watch, for they do not know the day or hour when that “door” of opportunity will be shut, never to be reopened. But such vigilant and discreet ones will not be shut out because of any fatal spiritual illuminating-oil crisis.
Man’s creation was placed in 4128 and sin’s entrance in 4126 B.C.E. Such chronology followed an incorrect manuscript rendering of Acts 13:20 in The Emphatic Diaglott, which said that God gave Israel judges “about four hundred fifty years, till Samuel the prophet.” A footnote stated that this was at variance with 1 Kings 6:1, where the Hebrew letter daleth (thought to represent the number 4) supposedly had been mistaken for the similar character he (5). Hence, it was suggested that 580 (not 480) years elapsed between Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the time that Solomon began building Jehovah’s temple. But the oldest manuscripts spell out all numbers. So a transcriber’s visual error could not have occurred at 1 Kings 6:1, which gives this period correctly as 480 years. This harmonizes with a correct reading of Acts 13:20, which indicates that the period of “about four hundred and fifty years” there mentioned preceded the era of the Judges.
In 1943 the Watch Tower Society’s book “The Truth Shall Make You Free” did away with the nonexistent extra 100 years in the period of the Judges and placed the end of 6,000 years of man’s existence in the 1970’s. It also fixed the beginning of Christ’s presence, not in 1874, but in 1914 C.E.