Whenever I become complacent in my walk as a Christian, which is often, I remember the parables.
The parables aren’t for the profane. They’re for us, God’s people. They are filled with warnings about hypocrisy and faithlessness and lessons on evangelism and charitable conduct. Needless to say, they’re rarely preached on in comfortable, Western churches. Much better just to stick to Corinthians and rail against the horrors of orgiastic adultery.
Some of the parables are clearly aimed at Israel. The parable of the wicked tenants comes to mind (Matthew 21:33-46). Others, though, are clearly for us.
Take the parable of the ten bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13). The bridesmaids are invited to the wedding feast. They’re not pagans or Jews. They’re saved. They represent the church. They’re also asleep just prior to the arrival of the bride-groom because he’s taken longer than expected. I’ve been in many small group Bible studies over the years during which people have lamented the lack of evangelical fervour or the absence of miracles in the church today. This parable provides us with some insight into why this might be.
The church, as represented by the bridesmaids, is asleep.
Not all Christians today slumber with equal surety of salvation, however, for there are two categories of bridesmaids. One is wise, the other foolish. One prepared oil enough to last, the other didn’t.
Wise Christians, as symbolised by the wise bridesmaids, will have enough fuel to provide light to the world in darkness at Christ’s return. Foolish Christians, having not prepared adequately for their role in the retinue on the way to the wedding feast, are shut out when the King returns. They’re not able to produce light for the world during the period of greatest darkness when Jesus’ Second Coming is at hand.
It is clear from the parable that what the Lord requires from his people at the shout heralding his return is that we produce light. His light, not our light.
Most troubling of all, of course, is the implication of Jesus’ teaching here for the spiritual status of we who today call ourselves Christians. If, like me, you are not a preterist and you also believe that we are the terminal generation of this age, then this parable should give you sober pause.
Half of us aren’t going to heaven.
How could this be? How could fully half the professing church at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming fail to enter paradise?
How offensive! How outrageous! Doesn’t this guy know that we are saved by grace through faith? This is heresy. This is blasphemy. This is… legalism!
I know, I know. It’s a hard and challenging teaching. We would not, however, be the first of God’s people to be shocked that our salvation was not as secure as we had thought when God turned up though. After all, it’s precisely what happened to the Jews.
The Judeans were confident of their security as sons of Abraham during the time of Jesus. They still are to this day. They believed and still believe that salvation is via biology; that being of the race of Jacob ensured they were the inheritors of salvation and the chosen of God. Jesus rebuked them for it directly (Matthew 3:9).
The mistake of the Jews was and is to fail to understand that God’s relationship with humans went all the way back to Eden, when Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden. All humans are his image-bearers before all creation, and as the Fall created a spiritual problem of alienation so the restoration of that relationship between God and man requires a spiritual solution via reconciliation. That solution is the cross. Many Jews missed it and all Jews continue to miss it to this day.
My argument here is that God’s First Coming was, among many other things, a typology of his Second. Many of God’s people who are confident of their security today will be shocked when they are told by Jesus to get lost. The parable of the talents, told by Jesus immediately after the ten bridesmaids, presses home the point (Matthew 25:14-30). Jesus warned us about it repeatedly:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23; KJV)
First-century Jews had come to believe, under the influence of the rabbis, that they could be justified before God by manmade law. Satan had used the Pharisees to create a counterfeit law to the written law of Moses. This is called the ‘oral law of the rabbis’ to this day, and is the basis of their religion. It has no power to save, however, because it is a reflection of the will of man, not God’s will.
Only those that doeth the will of the Father enter paradise, period. And it was true for the ancient Israelites as much as it is true for us today.
The postmodern church today has come to believe, under the influence of wolves in sheep’s clothing, that we can be justified before God by manmade grace. This false grace today takes many forms – the prosperity gospel, cultural Christianity, liberation theology, liberal theology, the hyper-grace movement. All of them involve a substitution of God’s grace for a form of grace made by man.
It is false grace too which is behind the massive demonic assault on post-Christian culture we are experiencing in the West today. Satan has used cunning anti-Christian intellectuals to create a counterfeit and worldly form of the royal law of love (Mark 12:30-31); instead of loving God and our neighbour as ourselves, we are to profess a symbolic love for all those perceived as made powerless or oppressed by the Christian West. It’s a fake love based on fake grace, and this fake grace is the basis for an emerging utopian political cult that has no power to redeem because it is a reflection of the will of man, not God.
Once you see this utopian identity cult, you see it everywhere infesting establishment Christianity.
Just as rabbinic Judaism was hostile to the popular truths preached by John the Baptist and later Jesus and the disciples, so establishment Christianity and its sycophants are becoming hostile to us faithful rubes in the pews who hold to Biblical truth.
Hold fast, brethren. The first believers had to wrestle with being cast out of the synagogues and martyred by Jewish authorities who believed God was on their side (John 16:1-3). We can see that soon Christians who adhere to Biblical truth and remain in right relationship with the Lord will be put out of jobs, excommunicated and probably worse. The persecution will be joined by worldly Christians who will call us bigots and whatever-phobes.
They should beware. Beware pride and the worldliness that leads to foolishness. Beware also the false grace of the cult of niceness that leads to death, when Jesus tells them to depart from him, for he never knew them.