Prophecy on Mount Olivet
By Arlen L. Chitwood
The Wise and the Foolish
Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,
but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (Matthew 25:1-4)
Teachings from the opening two parables in the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse (24:40-51) are continued in the third parable, the parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13). And this third parable, in keeping with the nature of parables, has been given to provide additional light for and help explain the two preceding parables.
(In the other three parables in the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse, there is a Householder with household servants. In the parable of the ten virgins, “the Householder” is seen as the Bridegroom, and “the household servants” are seen as ten virgins.
The reason for this change is easy to understand. Wedding festivities and a marriage are in view in the parable of the ten virgins. And this is something not seen in the other three parables, though something necessary to complete the composite picture presented by all four parables viewed together.)
The word, “Then,” beginning the parable of the ten virgins is the translation of a correlative adverb from the Greek text. This word forms a connection with both the two parables that preceded and the parable being introduced. All three parables have to do with the same thing. As seen in the previous two chapters of this book (Chapters 10, 11), time, conditions, circumstances, and the individuals involved are the same throughout.
In each of these three parables (and the same will be seen in the fourth parable, the parable of the talents [25:14-30]), two types of Christians are in view — faithful, and unfaithful — with each parable presenting a different facet of exactly the same thing.
Each parable presents the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of household servants during the present time, with a view to the acceptance or rejection of these household servants as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom during future time. And an emphasis is placed on the latter throughout the parables — the ultimate results of faithfulness or unfaithfulness.
The five wise virgins represent the same segment of Christendom as the faithful servant in the Lord’s house (24:45-47), synonymous with the ones received alongside as companions with their Lord in the kingdom (24:40, 41).
The five foolish virgins, on the other hand, represent the same segment of Christendom as the unfaithful servant in the Lord’s house (the servant who became unfaithful [24:48-51]), synonymous with the ones turned away, rejected by their Lord (turned away from, rejected for positions as companions with Christ in the kingdom [24:40, 41]).
Further light is then given to help explain the entire matter in the parable of the talents that follows the parable of the ten virgins, closing the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse. The opening verse of this parable (v. 14) clearly explains that the parable about to follow is just like the parable that has preceded:
For it [the parable of the ten virgins] is just as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods [literal rendering from the Greek text].
And, since the parable of the ten virgins deals with the same thing as the two previous parables in chapter twenty-four, teachings in the parable of the talents that follows the parable of the ten virgins MUST not only reflect upon the parable of the ten virgins but upon the first two parables as well.
The parable of the ten virgins MUST be understood in the light of its context. Only by so doing can the Christian avoid being led astray by erroneous exposition and arrive at the only correct interpretation and understanding of the parable.
The Kingdom of the Heavens
“The kingdom of the heavens” is the rule of the heavens over the earth. The source of all rule on the earth can be traced to a heavenly sphere — first, to the heavens above the earth; then, to the heavens beyond the earth in the far reaches of the North where God dwells.
. . . that Heaven rules. (Daniel 4:26)
God rules over His entire creation as the One Supreme Ruler, and He has appointed regents and vice-regents throughout His creation to whom He has delegated power and authority (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:17, 25; Ephesians 6:10-18).
Presently, angels rule directly under God throughout the material universe, including the earth upon which man resides (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:14). Insofar as the earth is concerned, Satan and his angels rule from a heavenly sphere under God through men upon the earth (a rebellious-type rule by Satan and his angels, though a rule under God nonetheless).
This is a type of rule in the universe peculiar to this earth, for the existence of man is a matter itself peculiar to this earth. Man was created to replace the disqualified incumbent ruler and those ruling with him, a matter delayed for six millennia but about to be realized.
Man was created, not superior to, but “a little lower than the angels,” a position which Christ Himself occupied while on earth (Hebrews 2:7, 9). The text and context in Hebrews, chapter two have to do with a rule over the earth (vv. 5-10; cf. Psalm 8:3-8). That is, man did not hold the scepter at the time of his creation. He was created in a position to assume the scepter; and, created in this position (not yet holding the scepter), he, relative to rulership over the earth, would have to be looked upon as created “a little lower than the angels.”
The description, “a little lower than the angels,” thus has to do with man’s position at the time of his creation, before the entrance of sin. The entrance of sin only kept man in this position, for fallen man was then in no position or condition to hold the scepter. And man’s present position and condition will remain the same as it presently exists until redemption is complete, until man has been redeemed body, soul, and spirit.
Man’s position both preceding and following the fall is the reason that the Redeemer Himself, “coming [KJV: ‘made’] in the likeness of [fallen] men,” was also “made a little lower than the angels” (Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:9). Christ assumed the position that fallen man occupied (relative to being estranged from the scepter, not in connection with sin). He assumed this position “for the suffering of death” — to effect redemption, ultimately resulting in man being removed from his present position and realizing the purpose for his creation in the beginning.
(The preceding presents in very succinct form the complete story of redemption. That which was lost through the first man’s fall, the first Adam’s fall [which had to do first and foremost with regality], will be regained through the second Man’s redemptive work, the Last Adam’s redemptive work [which, of necessity, can only have to do first and foremost with regality as well].
Man has been saved for a purpose, which can be understood only in the light of the purpose for his creation and the reason why Satan brought about his fall, seen in the opening three chapter of Genesis. And to deal with redemption apart from that which is revealed in these opening three chapters is to deal with the subject apart from the established foundations.
And, without question, the surest and quickest way possible to get into trouble in biblical interpretation is to ignore the foundations set forth in Genesis.)
When Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if He would but “fall down and worship” him (Matthew 4:8, 9), the positions that both occupied must be understood.
“Satan,” an angelic being, was the incumbent ruler. The power to exercise authority within these kingdoms had been “delivered” to him (Luke 4:5, 6), and he was offering this power to an individual [Christ] who had been “made in the likeness of [fallen] men,” “a little lower than the angels.”
Satan thus assessed the situation correctly. The One destined to replace him could, at that time, only have occupied a position under him.
Man ruling today (for Christians, it would be ruling “before the time” [cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5]) can only find himself in a position of power under angels (under Satan and lesser angels ruling with him from the heavens). Man, though created to take the scepter, should he seek to exercise regal power today, can rise no higher than occupying a subordinate position to the incumbent ruler, within his kingdom; and this is the only position in which man, exercising regal power today, can find himself throughout the remainder of the present dispensation.
There is only one kingdom of the heavens in relation to the earth — the one under the control of Satan and his angels. Israel, in view of man moving in and possessing power and authority from the heavens (in the stead of angels), was made the repository of this kingdom during Old Testament days (both heavenly and earthly [Genesis 22:17, 18; 26:3, 4; 28:12-14]). The way was opened at Christ’s first coming for Israel to move in and possess the heavenly realm, but the offer was spurned; and today these heavenly positions of power and authority are being offered to Christians.
Man moving into heavenly positions of power within this kingdom though will necessitate a complete change of all powers and authorities, which is exactly what will occur. Satan and his angels, though disqualified and rejected, will continue to rule until that time, for a principle of biblical government necessitates that an incumbent hold office until he is actually replaced.
At the time of Christ’s return, Satan and his angels will be put down and Christ with His co-heirs will then move in and take over the government:
For He has not put the world [‘inhabited world’] to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. (Hebrews 2:5)
Matthew 25:1ff views the kingdom of the heavens in both the light of the Christians’ present calling relative to the kingdom and in the light of the Christians’ future position in the kingdom. And since this kingdom is the one previously taken from Israel and presently being offered to Christians (cf. Matthew 21:43; 1 Peter 2:9, 10), the teaching promulgated by many concerning the ten virgins representing Israel is completely untenable.
Such a teaching is not only erroneous but quite misleading, for it completely obscures the issue at hand. Christians are the ones presently in possession of the “heavenly calling” relating to “His kingdom and glory,” not Israelites (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Hebrews 3:1; 1 Peter 5:1, 10; 2 Peter 1:3); and the parable of the ten virgins pertains to the present heirs and future possessors of the kingdom of the heavens (to “children” who are presently heirs, and to “sons” following the adoption and realization of the inheritance [Romans 8:14-23]).
Ten Virgins with Lamps
“Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, signifying all of the virgins, all those to whom the kingdom is presently being offered, all Christians. It is the same as in the parable of the pounds in Luke 19:12ff. The Lord, prior to His departure, “called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas [KJV: ‘pounds’] . . . .” (v. 13). That is, prior to His departure, he called all of His servants and delivered unto them all of His business. And this occurred at the beginning of a dispensation that cannot be Jewish (ref. Chapter 11 in this book).
All ten virgins “took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” This refers to activity among servants of the Lord during the present dispensation (using the ten minas [pounds], carrying on the Lord’s business), with provided light to carry out this activity.
The Bridegroom, the “light of the world” (John 8:12), is absent. The “rulers of the darkness of this world” are presently in control of affairs (Ephesians 6:12); but Christians have been called “out of darkness [out of the things associated with this ‘present world’ and the incumbent rulers] into His marvelous light [into the things associated with the ‘world to come’ and its new order of rulers]” (1 Peter 2:9).
The Word of God is “a lamp” to our feet and “a light” to our path (Psalm 119:105), as the indwelling Holy Spirit takes this Word and guides us “into all truth” (John 16:13). As the Christian receives “the implanted Word [that which is completely compatible with and natural for his new nature]” into his saved human spirit (James 1:21), the indwelling Holy Spirit takes this Word and opens it to his spiritual understanding. Light then shines forth “out of darkness” (2 Corinthians 4:6; cf. vv. 3-5), providing that which is necessary for Christians to possess during the time of this world’s darkness.
Each virgin among the ten had their own lamp. None was excluded from the provided light. Just as each servant in Luke 19:12ff was entrusted with a portion of the Lord’s business during His time of absence, each one of the virgins in Matthew 25:1ff (synonymous with the ten servants in Luke 19:12ff) had been provided with light to carry out this activity.
Provided light for the present day must always find its association with light spoken of in connection with that coming day, the millennial day (cf. Matthew 16:28-17:5). The Christians’ calling has to do with that coming day, and the Christians’ present commission and provision within his calling (the Lord’s business, light) would also have to do with this same period.
The ten virgins taking their lamps and going forth to meet the Bridegroom reveals far more than just present activity carried out in presently provided light. The picture is present activity being carried out in presently provided light in view of a future meeting with the Bridegroom and events beyond.
Ten Virgins Going Forth
The ten virgins were traveling in a definite direction that would lead to a revealed engagement — a meeting with the Bridegroom. Several manuscripts add the words, “and the bride,” to the end of verse one, making the verse read, “. . . the bridegroom and the bride.” This is without question either a scribal interpolation based on erroneous exposition or a scribal error introduced inadvertently through copying from one manuscript to another. The addition of these words would change the whole structure of the parable into something completely out of line with not only its context (the two parables preceding and the one parable following) but its own internal teaching.
Some expositors (not all) seeking support for their claim that the ten virgins represent Israel awaiting the return of Christ to the earth at the end of the Tribulation call attention to the reading, “and the bride” (found in the Syriac and Vulgate versions), at the end of verse one. In this respect, calling attention to and contending for the inclusion of these words results mainly from an attempt to support a previous understanding of the passage, which can easily be shown to be incorrect; and such an attempt only compounds the error already made.
Scripture plainly reveals that the bride of Christ will not return to the earth with Christ at the end of the Tribulation, though a translation and exposition such as that which is seen in the Syriac and Vulgate versions would teach that Christ’s bride will be with Him at this time. But, as will be shown, that will not, it cannot, be the case at all. Rather, Christ will be accompanied by “His mighty angels” when He returns to deal with Israel and the Gentile nations, not by His bride (2 Thessalonians 1:7; cf. Revelation 19:14).
Moses did not take Zipporah with him when he returned to Egypt (a type of the world) and appeared a second time to his brethren. Zipporah traveled only part of the way. Moses traveled the remainder of the way without her, and they were reunited only after he had dealt with his brethren, had dealt with the Egyptians, and had led the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 4:19-26; 18:1-5).
Thus will it be when Christ returns to this earth and appears to His brethren a second time, deals with them, deals with the Gentiles, and leads the Israelites out from a worldwide dispersion. His bride will not accompany Him all the way back to the earth. Christ’s bride will (within the structure of the type) travel only part way, probably remain in the new Jerusalem above the earth, and be reunited with Christ only after the completion of certain events surrounding His return to the earth with His angels.
Note also in a previous type that Asenath was not with Joseph when he dealt with and made himself known to his brethren (Genesis 44:1-45:15). She was in another part of the palace.
Another problem that has been introduced into the passage is an attempt to see the rapture in this same verse, in verse one (which is an eisegesis of the passage [a reading into the passage of that which is not really in the passage] rather than an exegesis of the passage [a reading out of the passage of that which is in the passage, letting the passage interpret itself]).
The ten virgins going forth to meet the Bridegroom in verse one should not be understood as a reference to the return of Christ for the Church (i.e., the rapture). Nor should the similar statement in verse six be so understood. Christ’s return and events following His return are referred to in verses ten through twelve (though not the rapture per se; it is the Nobleman’s return to deal with His household servants). Scripture preceding verses ten through twelve refers to Christian activity during the present dispensation in view of Christ’s return and attendant events at the end of the dispensation.
Statements referring to the ten virgins going “went out to meet the bridegroom,” or the “midnight” cry, “Behold the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!” (vv. 1, 6), must be understood in the light of the context, which involves the Christians’ calling, their present responsibility, and their future accountability. The focal point is on an impending meeting with the Bridegroom (all ten virgins present, all Christians present), preparing for that time, and judgment to be meted out by and in the presence of the Bridegroom.
That’s what is in view by the reference to “midnight [which has to do with judgment]” and the statement, “Behold the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!” In other words, the Bridegroom is going to return, with judgment following His return; and, in view of the Christians’ calling, the admonition is clear: “Be prepared, be ready, for His return!”
(The first mention of “midnight” in Scripture is in Exodus 11:4, in a passage that connects “midnight” with the time of God’s judgment — the death of the firstborn.
A first-mention principle concerning “midnight” has been established at this point in Scripture. And any subsequent use of “midnight” would, of necessity, have to be understood in the light of its first usage in Exodus [e.g., note in Ruth 3:8 that Ruth appeared in Boaz’s presence, on his threshing floor, at “midnight,” with “the threshing floor” as well foreshadowing the time of God’s judgment — the future judgment of Christians on Christ’s threshing floor (cf. Matthew 3:11, 12), at His judgment seat].)
Five Wise and Five Foolish
There is a sharp distinction in the Greek text between the words translated “wise” (phronimos) and “foolish” (moros). These words are opposites. One has to do with a person who is “prudent, sensible, thoughtful [one who thinks, uses his mentality].” The other has to do with a person who is “stupid, senseless [one who doesn’t think, doesn’t use his mentality].” The same two words are used in Matthew 7:24, 26 relative to individuals either building on the rock or on the sand. One gives thought to that which he is doing, in view of the future; the other does not.
The word moros, translated “foolish,” is actually the Greek word from which our English word “moron” is derived. “Moron” is simply a transliterated, an Anglicized, form of moros. And the sharp distinction between the wise and the foolish, along with the true nature of the foolish, can be seen by substituting the word “moron” for “foolish” in the text. That is, “…five of them were wise, and five were morons.”
A moron is a “sluggish, very foolish, or stupid person.” He normally exhibits a mentality allowing him to do “routine work under supervision,” and most morons can be quite “happy with tasks too simple and monotonous to satisfy an intelligent person.”
Scripture uses the word moros to describe a person whose actions are governed by spiritual intelligence of a very low nature, especially relating to matters surrounding the Lord’s return and the coming kingdom; and the parallel between the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1ff and wise and foolish Christians in the world today, for those who have eyes to see, is quite obvious. In fact, the matter is so obvious that only a moros, “a moron,” could possibly miss it.
There are Christians who study, give thought to, and understand things relative to the appearance of the Bridegroom and the coming kingdom. The vast majority of Christians though do not concern themselves with these things.
Those in one segment, the wise, search out things in the Word pertaining to the soon-coming meeting with the Bridegroom and the kingdom that follows. They have a respect for “the reward [KJV: ‘the recompense of the reward’] (cf. Hebrews 11:23-26).
Those in the other segment though are not interested in these things. They are often very happy in totally unrelated “tasks [usually Church work, so called, within the sphere of man’s goals, aims, ambitions, and aspirations] which are not only too simple and monotonous to satisfy a spiritually intelligent person but not really in line with the direction toward which all Scripture moves.” These are the ones described by the Greek word moros.
Christians are in possession of the highest of all callings, a calling to occupy positions as co-heirs with Christ in a heavenly sphere during the coming age; and, in view of this, only “a very foolish or stupid person,” a moros, “a moron,” would exhibit the type of spiritual mentality prevalent throughout much of Christendom today, a mentality which ignores the Lord’s return and the coming kingdom.
Oil in the Lamps
All of the virgins went forth with lamps to meet the Bridegroom, and all of the lamps were burning. Each lamp had a supply of oil. The difference between the wise and the foolish lay in the fact that the wise took along an extra supply of oil. The wise took along a supply sufficient to provide light for safe travel throughout the time of this world’s darkness, which would prevail while they awaited the Bridegroom.
The foolish though, without this extra supply of oil, without this provision of light, were in no condition to travel safely through the time of this world’s darkness.
“Oil” and “no oil” in verses three and four refer to the extra supply carried in a separate container and used to replenish the supply that the wick touched and from which the wick drew. This is evident by comparing these two verses with verses seven and eight:
Then all those virgins [all ten] arose and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil [from the extra supply], for our lamps are going out.”
The supply of oil in the reservoirs touching the wicks was being exhausted in all the lamps, but the wise carried an extra supply of oil to refill the reservoirs, keeping their lamps burning. The foolish though, without this extra supply of oil, could not keep their lamps burning. Their lamps began going out, and they were helpless to do anything about the matter.
1) Symbolism and Use of Oil in the Old Testament
“Oil” was used in the Old Testament Scriptures to anoint prophets, priests, and kings; and there was a connection between the use of oil after this fashion and the Holy Spirit coming upon an individual to empower him for duties in the office to which he was being consecrated. Saul, for example, was anointed the first king over Israel (1 Samuel 10:1, 6), and David was later anointed king in Saul’s stead (1 Samuel 16:13). The Spirit of the Lord came upon both Saul and David following and in connection with their being anointed, empowering both to perform their duties as kings over Israel within the theocracy (see also Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:14-19).
The common experience peculiar to all who were empowered by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was the Spirit coming upon rather than indwelling them. The Holy Spirit came upon and empowered individuals for service, but there was the ever-present danger that by and through disobedience the Holy Spirit would be removed. This occurred in Saul’s life because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:1-26; 16:13, 14), and this is what David feared following not only his sin with Bathsheba but his subsequently having her husband slain when he prayed, “. . . do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).
Another connection between anointing with oil and the reception of the Holy Spirit for service can be seen in the fact that “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul” at the time Samuel “took the horn of oil” and anointed David (1 Samuel 16:13, 14). The Spirit of the Lord came upon David to empower him for tasks as king over Israel; and the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, the rejected king. Even though David had not yet assumed the position as king, and would not for quite some time; Saul no longer possessed the power to properly carry out his duties as king over Israel.
The story of Elijah and Elisha presents a slightly different facet of anointing for service in the Old Testament. The Spirit of God empowered Elijah for service as a prophet, and the mantle that he wore constituted the outward visible sign of his office and the fact that the Spirit of the Lord rested on and empowered him to carry out his duties (2 Kings 2:13, 15).
Elijah though did not finish his ministry. Before the conclusion of his ministry, Elijah requested of the Lord “that he might die” (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah, in one sense of the word, turned in his resignation; and the Lord accepted it.
Elisha was then anointed prophet in his stead and finished his ministry, following Elijah’s removal from the earth in a whirlwind (1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 2:1-13).
Things were slightly different with Elisha though. Elisha had requested a double portion of the Spirit which rested on Elijah (2 Kings 2:10-12). His request was honored; and, with this double portion, Elisha, donning Elijah’s mantle and completing his ministry, performed twice as many miracles as Elijah had performed.
2) The New Testament Experience
Conditions pertaining to the reception of the Holy Spirit during the present dispensation are not the same as those pertaining to the reception of the Holy Spirit during the past dispensation. During Old Testament days the Holy Spirit came upon individuals; but today, rather than coming upon individuals, the Spirit indwells and fills them.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit occurs at the time an individual believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, at the point of salvation (Ephesians 1:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
Individuals being filled with the Spirit though is a different matter entirely. Christians, those indwelt by the Spirit, are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). This is a separate work of the Spirit following His initial work at the point of salvation.
The experience of Christians relative to the Holy Spirit during the present dispensation is in perfect keeping with the parable of the ten virgins. All ten had lamps with oil, but only five possessed an extra supply of oil. That is to say, all Christians are in possession of the Holy Spirit, but only some are filled with the Holy Spirit. Only some have the extra portion of oil, as in the parable.
Note in this parable that the extra portion of oil appears in connection with the lamps continuing to burn, providing light during the time of darkness. And the same parallel can be seen in Christendom today.
There is an inseparable connection between being filled with the Spirit and dwelling deeply in the Word of God, the “lamp” unto our feet and “light” unto our path.
Ephesians and Colossians are companion epistles and parallel one another in a number of places. One parallel can be seen by comparing Ephesians 5:18-20 with Colossians 3:16, 17.
In Ephesians, Christians are told,
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
In Colossians, Christians are told,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Note the contextual parallel between the command, “be filled with the Spirit,” in Ephesians and the command, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,” in Colossians. One is substituted for the other in each book, with each statement saying the same thing, though stated in different words.
The two verses, understood together, present a clear biblical teaching relative to the Word and the Spirit who gave this Word (breathed this Word through about forty different individuals over a period of some 1,500 years). A Christian who is filled with the Spirit is one who has allowed the Word of Christ to dwell in him “richly in all wisdom.” Or, the inverse of that is saying exactly the same thing: A Christian who has allowed the Word of Christ to dwell in him “richly in all wisdom” is one who is filled with the Spirit.
Such a Christian has studied, prayed over, assimilated the Word; and, at the same time, he has, through this process, progressively allowed himself to become filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with the Word, which is inseparably connected with the entire triune Godhead (John 1:1, 2).
A Christian filled with the Spirit is filled with the Word. He knows the Word, and he possesses the indwelling Holy Spirit to take this Word and lead him into all truth. He is guided, directed after this fashion; and it is this Word, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, which is a “lamp,” providing “light.” It is this Word, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, which has been given to guide him through the time of this world’s darkness.
A Christian not filled with the Spirit though finds himself in a completely different position. He is not filled with the Word. He doesn’t know the Word. And even though the Spirit indwells the Christian, the Spirit cannot take the Word (that which the person has little to no knowledge of) and lead that person by means of the Word. Such is simply not possible.
A Christian estranged from the Word is estranged from the “lamp,” the “light” which God has provided; and, apart from this Light, a Christian cannot travel safely through the time of this world’s darkness.
Such a person will invariably find himself in the position described in Ephesians 4:14:
. . . tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.
Such a Christian will be ripe for deception. Should he seek that which is spiritual, he will not know enough about the Word to avoid being caught up in pseudo-spirituality — something rampant throughout Christendom today, resulting in spiritual shipwreck in the lives of untold millions of Christians.
And that is where Christendom finds itself near the end of the present dispensation, which is exactly how Scripture states that the dispensation would end (cf. Luke 18:8; 2 Timothy 4:1ff; 2 Peter 2:1ff; Jude 1ff).
Christendom finds itself at a time when the mustard bush has grown into something that it wasn’t supposed to grow into at all — “a tree [which, in Scripture, represents a national power]” — with “the birds of the air [the emissaries of Satan]” finding acceptance and lodging in “the branches” of the tree; and, consequently, it is a time when the “leaven” that the woman placed in the “three measures of meal” very early in the dispensation is doing its most damaging work of the entire dispensation (Matthew 13:4, 19, 31-33).
(That which is taught by comparing Ephesians 5:18-20 with Colossians 3:16, 17, in the light of verses having to do with the filling of the Spirit in both the gospel accounts and the book of Acts, would seemingly sound either contradictory or leave one with the thought that there is more than one way for Christians to be filled with the Spirit today. But neither is the case. There can be no contradictions in Scripture; nor, in the light of clear Scriptural teaching on the subject, can there be more than one way for Christians to presently be filled with the Spirit.
John the Baptist’s parents, Elizabeth and Zacharias, were both filled with the Spirit before their son’s birth. Then, John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, was filled with the Spirit “from his mother’s womb” [Luke 1:15, 41, 67]. And Jesus is seen being filled with and led by the Spirit [Luke 4:1; cf. Matthew 12:24-32].
In the first thirteen chapters of the book of Acts, individuals were filled with the Spirit after a similar fashion — those proclaiming the message to Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4; Peter speaking to the religious leaders in Jerusalem in Acts 4:8; an assembly of believers after prayer in Acts 4:31; a search for seven particular men in Acts 6:3; Stephen at the time of his death in Acts 7:55; Paul at the time of his conversion in Acts 9:17; Barnabas at the time he was sent forth in Acts 11:24; and Paul at a subsequent time in his ministry in Acts 13:9.
The preceding verses from the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts [which Luke also wrote], along with Paul’s statement in Ephesians 5:18, are the only places in the entire New Testament where direct statements are made relative to individuals being filled with the Spirit [though letting the Word dwell in one richly in all wisdom is a synonymous statement].
But there are inseparably related statements such as being “filled with all the fullness of God” [Ephesians 3:19], “being filled with the fruits of righteousness” [Philippians 1:11], being “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” [Colossians 1:9], or being “filled with joy” [2 Timothy 1:4; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 12]. And the preceding would have to be viewed as inseparably related to Ephesians 5:18 [“be filled with the Spirit”] simply because none of the things stated could be true apart from the filling of the Spirit, the reception of the Word, into one’s saved human spirit.
Note that one section of Scripture having to do with the filling of the Spirit [from Luke’s writings in both his gospel and the book of Acts] presents the matter as an instantaneous event, apart from the reception of the Word. But the other section of Scripture having to do with the filling of the Spirit [from the New Testament epistles] presents the matter in a completely different respect — in a progressive manner, in connection with the reception of the Word.
The difference lies in two related realms:
1) The use of different words in the Greek text for “filled.”
2) The times and circumstances surrounding these fillings.
The different Greek words are pletho [or pimplemi, same word in another form; or a cognate word (carrying the same meaning), pleres] and pleroo. Pletho and pleres are the words used by Luke in his gospel and the book of Acts; and pleroo is the word used by Paul in Ephesians 5:18 or in the other inseparably related passages in the epistles.
And, for all practical purposes, there is really no difference between the meanings of these words. All three words mean “to fill”; and all three are used relative to individuals being filled with the Spirit, with individuals being filled with something such as anger or indignation, and with inanimate objects being filled with something such as the sponge with vinegar at the time of Christ’s crucifixion.
The time in which the different words were used and how they were used is where the difference lies. Pletho and pleres were used by Luke in his gospel and the book of Acts during the time of and in connection with both the offer and the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel. The last use in the New Testament of both pletho and pleres relative to individuals being filled with the Spirit is in Acts 11:24 and 13:9. Actually, neither word is used outside the gospels and the book of Acts except one usage of pleres in 2 John 8, where it is used relative to Christians receiving “a full reward.”
Pleroo, on the other hand, used by Paul in Ephesians, was used relative to Christians separate from the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel.
In the preceding respect, it would be completely out of place to use either pletho or pleres relative to Christians being filled with the Spirit today. The type of filling of the Spirit in view through the use of these two words was reserved for a particular time and in particular circumstances.
The proper word to use in relation to Christians being filled with the Spirit today is pleroo, and the only proper way to view the matter is exactly as seen in Ephesians and Colossians, not as seen by and through the manner in which the filling of the Spirit is depicted by the use of pletho and pleres in the gospels and the book of Acts.)
Scripture places an emphasis in two realms:
1) Christians knowing and understanding things pertaining to the return of the Bridegroom and the kingdom that follows.
2) Christians making proper preparation during the present day for that future day.
We have been saved for a purpose, and that purpose has to do with the coming kingdom. We have been called “to His own kingdom and glory,” and we are admonished to “walk worthy” of this high calling (1 Thessalonians 2:12; cf. Philippians 3:14).
Wise Christians live in the light of the Bridegroom’s return. They conduct their lives during the present time in the light of that future day, anticipating the fulfillment of His promise,
And if I go . . . I will come again . . . .” (John 14:3).
The unwise, the foolish, the moros, though conduct their lives in an opposite manner during the present time. They live in the light of that which can be seen by the natural man (cf. Hebrews 11:1), the here and now, giving little to no thought pertaining to the Bridegroom’s return.
And, in such an hour as they think not, the Bridegroom will return (cf. Matthew 24:44, 50).
For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith . . . . (Hebrews 10:37-38a)