Let Your Lamps Be Burning

20 Nov

from Google Images

Lately, I’ve been involved in a study of the eschatology of Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), which is still part of the Olivet Discourse, according to Matthew. In the parable all of the virgins slumber and sleep, as they wait for the arrival of the bridegroom. They had taken their lamps for their watch during the night, but only five of the virgins brought along extra oil for the lamps. Sometime during the middle of the night,[1] the call went out that the bridegroom was coming, and the virgins awoke and trimmed their lamps. However, the five foolish virgins, who didn’t bring any oil, thought they might run out and asked the five wise virgins to share theirs. They wouldn’t, so the foolish ones had to leave their watch, hoping to buy more. Meanwhile, the bridegroom came. The five wise were brought in to the wedding, but the five foolish were shut out.

The motif of the burning lamps or lights is important and was used by Jesus on another occasion. Notice:

Luke 12:35-36  Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.  (36)  And you yourselves be like men who wait for their lord, whenever he shall return from the wedding, so that when he comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately.

The wedding had two ceremonies. The first was the betrothal or the engagement, when the agreements were made etc. The second ceremony occurred later, after the bridegroom prepared a place for his beloved, and once all things would be ready, the bridegroom returned. Luke mentions the bridegroom returning to the bride after the first ceremony. She was to wait with her light or lamp burning. The idea of imminence is clearly present, viz. ‘let you loins be girded’ and ‘your lights burning.’ Jesus also makes a point of emphasizing that he is speaking particularly to those present with him. Notice that he says: “you, yourselves, be like men who wait for their lord…” He told the Apostles to wait for him: “you, yourselves…” Jesus is not speaking of some distant event that would occur hundreds or thousands of years later.[2]

Peter also spoke of the imminence of the Lord’s return in his first epistle. He was writing to believers in five Roman provinces in Asia Minor, which is part of present day Turkey (1Peter 1:1). Peter wrote of their salvation, i.e. their immortality, which was reserved for them in heaven and would be realized at the resurrection of the living and the dead, which was about to occur at the soon appearing of Jesus (1Peter 1:3-7), and notice the motif of imminence at 1Peter 1:13. “Gird up the loins of your mind…” (viz. Luke 12:35 mentioned above) hoping to the end—what end?—the end of the age, which the Apostles asked Jesus about in Matthew 24:3. At the time of his writing Peter claimed “the end of all things was at hand (1Peter 4:7), and Jesus was ready to judge the living and the dead (1Peter 4:5). So, the idea of imminence was very real in the first century AD.

What we need to ask ourselves today is, were the Apostles correct when they spoke of the nearness of Jesus’ return, or were they just as “correct” as today’s false prophets who yet point to a future coming of the Lord, telling us it will be in our generation? If the Apostles were correct, then Jesus returned, spiritually, in 70 AD. If they were wrong, then they are no better than the many false prophets in our modern day who have prophesied of the return of Jesus and failed. Either the Apostles were correct or they were false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). There are only two sides to that coin.


[1] See my study, The Midnight Hour and Romans 13. The translators say midnight, but the Greek word is often translated midst, which doesn’t have to mean the exact center of a thing. Moreover, Jesus tells the Apostles at the end of the parable that they don’t know the hour of his coming (Matthew 25:13).

[2] See my studies, The Gap Theory and What Did Jesus Know about his Coming?

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Posted by on November 20, 2018 in 70 AD Eschatology


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