Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
I refer to the term as it is used to suggest spiritual truths in “The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25: 1-13, NIV):
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
I previously posted some thoughts on how to know if one is a “wise” or a “foolish” “virgin.” This essay will concentrate more on the “why” of the need for taking inventory, to check–and maintain–the “oil level,” as it were (via personal revival), and an encouragement as to “how”. But first, some definitions to clarify the “what”.
This parable is, of course, like all parables, a metaphor to illustrate spiritual truth. The key to understanding is to know, for one thing, what the elements of the parable stand for, what they symbolize. The following definitions help.
Whereas the word “lamp” (lampas) translates to a literal lamp, torch, clay pot filled with oil and wick, “oil” (elaion) has an expanded meaning in this usage that incorporates the spiritual meaning: “the indwelling (empowering) of the Holy Spirit. While all true believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, none can give their oil to someone else (see Mt 25:3-8)! Each person must seek (find) the Lord for themself.”
By association, the lamp that contains the oil would be us, you and me, filled with the Holy Spirit, gifted us at our re-birth through grace and by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son (the link above provides a good discussion of this spiritual phenomenon).
To the “what,” then, as in what is the spiritual meaning, it is that salvation is an individual event.
We do not inherit salvation or come by it because we are part of a certain church or denomination, or even a particular nation! For example, in the United States, some assume they are Christian because this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.
You might say that God is interested in individual relationships as much as He desires whole communities and nations, indeed all people in all places, times, and circumstances, to respond to His invitation to salvation.
However, even Holy Spirit-filled believers can slack, back track (or “back slide”); grow weary, wary, or even wayward. It’s human. And there is the triple-threat of the world, the flesh, and the devil to tempt us away from our position–and our protection.
But it is vital that we take stock in what’s become of the Holy Spirit, so to speak, in our lamp; especially if by neglect, temptation, the lure of spiritual apostates, or just the business of day-to-day, He has grown dim within. This is where sometime–and I would add, particularly now–it’s so important to make sure we’re “filled up.”
But why now, especially?
On Why–and Especially Why NOW
Going back to the parable Jesus used, the context is also important to understand.
The scene depicted was a familiar one to the Jewish listeners to whom he was speaking because it related to Jewish wedding customs. The “waiting virgins” (who were attending the bride) were to be ready at all times to escort the bride to the bridegroom’s home when he announced his coming, which could be at any time.
At night, of course, they would need to light their lamps to follow the right path. If they had to run back for oil, in other words, if they had neglected to maintain their lamps, they would miss the entrance to the bridegroom’s home, and miss the festivities. Those were the foolish ones. The wise ones knew they could not share their oil or they would not, then, have enough either.
Because many Bible scholars compare the Jewish wedding feast with prophecies concerning “end times” and what is happening in the world just now, we may well deduce that Jesus’ return (in whatever manner and timing He chooses, as the “Bridegroom” to the Church’s “bride”) it is particularly important to be prepared, do what one knows has to be done–and with joy for the coming feast! See here for a general discussion on end times prophecies organized by topics of general interest.There are, of course, myriad other good references.
However, the point to this discussion is that, whenever and however Jesus Christ will return to earth, it behooves His people, like the ten virgins, to be ready, i.e., to have our “lamps filled”.
On How: Personal Revival
Given the need to tend to our readiness individually, it is by personal “revival,” as it were, we can do so.
Most modern believers, if they’ve heard the term “revival” (renew, restore, refresh) at all, anymore, have heard of it in terms of an event held on a specific day or days and organized along denominational traditions. The focus is to re-focus on our relationship with Christ. Evangelists teach and preach on this and usually have an “altar call” for those who have yet to receive Christ as Savior, and for those who wish to re-dedicate their lives to Him after having fallen away.
However, these days of so many churches abandoning the concept altogether, or re-defining it to mean some new experience for a new age–or an actual New Age (pagan roots) experience, believers may not know about the opportunity for a personal revival, a chance for a solo renewal.
I would add, in this era that I also believe is very close to the return of Christ and in which more and more believers are leaving churches that have devolved into apostate teachings and away from community revival events, we might need to engage in “personal “maintenance,” as it were, on our own, to reset our spiritual clock, to remember our “first love”–and draw close to Him again, thus keep our oil lamps filled.
You might say it’s high time to whisk away the spiritual cobwebs, sweep out the dust bunnies, clean out cupboards, get to some long-needed repair jobs–and replace all light sources that have gone dim or burned out–spiritually speaking.
Equally as important, personal revival will help us “restrain the darkness” that comes our way by the fast-degrading situation in the world at large that would tempt us even further into the Devil’s territory of defeat and despair.
May I suggest the following means organized in a memory device, an acrostic, that spells “RENEW,” vertically :
REDIRECT: redirect one’s focus on Jesus Christ–which can be challenging these days when every time we turn around, it seems some social, political, familial or other urgent event or news screams for our immediate attention in a kind of sustained emotional tyranny. Here are some helpful reminders:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 5:33)
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)
“Repent from sins. And μετανοησατε (metanoesate), the original Greek word translated ‘repent,’ means to ‘change one’s mind or attitude about,’ so repenting from sins means changing one’s mind or attitude away from sins, which will eventually lead to changing one’s actions away from sins.” (source)
If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored; If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent… (Job 22:23)
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Choose to Re-ENGAGE with your Heavenly Father on a more personal level, Who…
…gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)
…has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8)
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145:18-19)
Re-ESTABLISH your relationship with God, Who…
…(knows) the plans (He has) for you…“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
WIELD: definition–to deal successfully with; to manage, handle ; to have at one’s command or disposal. (source). What this means for personal revival–today and in the future–is that we can be successful at personal revival following a pattern such as suggested above, at will, when, where, how, and why we need to.
That said, we might not have much time left on this end of the so-called Church Age.
Best take advantage of your renewal, refreshment, repair, restoration–and revival–opportunity, today.
Image of ancient Hellenistic oil lamp from Wikimedia commons