November 8, 2020 Ready To Enter His Kingdom Hall
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
In these last few Sundays of the Church Year, we always talk about the return of Jesus Christ in all His glory; we hear about the end of this broken world, & the Last Day. And we hear about the two eternal places that all human souls will enter: either with God or without God; either heaven or hell. Jesus told some parables about His return & the Last Day;
His main goal was not to give us secret ‘details’ about heaven or hell, but His goal was to get us prepared for that Day, to meet Him with faith & joy for that wonderful future with Him.
With His kingdom parables, we should not get bogged down in the little details; and we should not get distracted by our own questions, so that we forget His main goal for us. Which is: to be prepared, and to look forward -in faith & eagerness- for those eternal things to come.
Now, what if Jesus said: ‘the kingdom of heaven is like a buffet’, & His 3 main points were: 1) there’s an abundance of everything, 2) there’s plenty of room for all, 3) & there is such a wide variety of God’s good things, that all of us will find everything we like & need.
It would be distracting for us if we thought: ooh, I don’t like buffets. Or if we asked questions like: ‘will there be sea food?’ or ‘Does that mean there’ll be a lot of waiting in lines?’
Those details would not be the main point. When our Lord teaches us about heavenly things, His main goal is to get us there; not to answer all our more minor questions.
With His parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus’ main point is THIS: Those who are ready will enter the kingdom of heaven with Him; those who are not ready will not enter. So, Jesus uses a wedding celebration & feast to compare to the Kingdom of Heaven. His main points are these: the bridegroom is coming, and only those who are ready will enter with Him into the heavenly hall. So, we will not let ourselves be distracted by our own curiosity & questions. Such as:
+Where is this kingdom of heaven = is it far away? +When is He coming? = we want to know. +When our body dies, will our soul know which way to go to get there? +What if I don’t like weddings, can I still get in? +What if I’m not a ‘virgin’ anymore? +Do we actually get to eat & drink in heaven = what’s the food like? But, these are not Jesus’ main point with his parable.
On the other hand, Jesus does answer a few questions. The kingdom of heaven is not just a place for us to go to when we die. Heaven IS a real place; but the Kingdom of God truly IS wherever Christ Jesus is. When Adam & Eve were dwelling with God back in the Garden of Eden, they were enjoying the kingdom of heaven. That’s where they were perfectly holy; there was no sin, and no death or sorrow; they were perfectly content & satisfied with all things as they lived with the Triune God face-to-face.
And *where is Christ Jesus today? Jesus is not just up there somewhere, far away & watching us from a distance. Our Creator & Lord is truly with us. He is present here with us in His Word. He is active here with us thru His Church = His people; He gives gifts thru His Baptism and His Holy Meal. When He promised: ‘surely I am with you always to the end of the age’ He wasn’t kidding. He is still ‘Immanuel’~God-with-us. When He says that ‘where two or three are gathered in My name there am I in the midst of them’, He was speaking the truth.
The Holy Spirit said thru St.Paul, ‘Christ lives in me.’ (Gal.2) Although it is by faith & not yet by sight, yet by His Church & Word, we already have a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven. This is the very real blessing that people miss when they are not participating in the Lord’s earthly church. Wherever Christ is, there is a new life in faith, with the forgiveness of sin; there is the new birth as a child of God, with peace of mind, and the courage of His salvation promise for us. We already have one foot in the door of the kingdom of heaven, because the Bridegroom has called us to Himself thru His living Word. We already know Him, with His strength & mercy & love; and we are prepared for His visible return.
We still have questions because we’re not there yet; and our minds -right now- can’t grasp all the many wonders of what’s yet to come. But He gives us this foretaste of faith so that our hearts & minds will long for that Day -& not be afraid- when we will leave behind this broken world, and fully enter with him into His heavenly home. We don’t have to fret about that day because His promise to us is already being fulfilled. Wherever Christ is, there is the kingdom of God.
So, using a wedding illustration, Jesus teaches that those who are ready will enter the kingdom of heaven with Him; those who are not ready will not enter. His illustration includes 3 main things: /ten virgins, /lamps of oil, /and the bridegroom.
#1) What about these ten virgins? These are the wedding attendants, whose job it was to keep the bride ready to meet the bridegroom in a joyful procession into the wedding hall. It is not a main point that they are called ‘virgins’; they are simply the unmarried bridesmaids serving the wedding couple in this important event. It IS a main point that five were wise and five were foolish. The wise ones were properly ready, & could be counted on in their responsibility to the bridegroom. These wise bridesmaids were prepared with enough oil-& extra oil- for their lamps if the bridegroom was delayed.
Jesus’ main point is ‘preparation.’ The wise virgins are believers in Christ; mindful & attentive to their calling. WE do not know the hour or the day of Jesus’ return, but knowing that is not our job. Our job is to keep watch & keep serving = which is not easy. As our Lord delays His coming, we’re tempted to get lazy with our faith, & to be drowsy with our Christian responsibilities. This is a warning for us.
We -not only- can get lazy about His Church things, we are even tempted to ignore the fact that we are to be prepared to die at any time. *Do we have our ‘affairs in order’, or do we just pretend that day is a long way off? Our spirits might be willing, but our flesh can be weak. We are still sinners who need the help & forgiveness of our Lord’s cross. We need the strength of His Spirit given to us in Holy Baptism; we need His presence & His Word to keep us awake & on track. The repentant & humble, believing & churchly Christian is the wise attendant in Jesus’ story.
The foolish virgins are those who began with the bridegroom, but He is no longer their priority or desire. These are those who seem to know something about Jesus as God’s Son & Savior. They like the idea of one day entering into heaven, but not so much that they will take the time to prepare for it now; they’re too wrapped up in this life & world.
They like to be considered ‘christian’ & nice people, but they’re not willing to change their life to live by the Bible’s teachings; maybe later. They are more committed to themselves & to the world than to honoring the coming bridegroom. They are willing to leave the church, let others take care of those religious things, & they’ll come back at the end.
But they don’t control the door. The Lord does; and they will be shut out. With that attitude, they’ve forgotten who is the Master & who’s the servant; they have not remained in the faith.
#2) what about the lamps of oil? In the Bible, a lampstand can symbolize ‘the church.’ Here the lamps are ‘faith.’ The lamps of the foolish are empty, making them unprepared.
And the lamps of the wise are full, with extra, making them always prepared.
So everyone has a ‘lamp’ & faith in something. If faith were an oil container, *what would the foolish world fill it with? The foolish world thinks any kind of ‘religion’, or spiritual things will work. In their lamps they put things of self-worth & self-purpose to be the light of their life. *What does the world ‘fear, love or trust in’ besides the one true God?
+Some adopt other ‘gods’; many call theirs ‘allah’ with Mohamed as their real prophet = not Jesus. +Others substitute things they can ‘see’ & trust in, such as their investments, or their material things. +For some it’s their higher education & skills in life. +For some, it’s whatever is the ‘cause of the day’ = in our day, people’s highest purpose can be a political movement, such as ‘climate change’, or social//racial justice, or maybe health & exercise.
+Some fill their lamp with the empty hope that whoever ‘god’ is, he’ll just let everyone into His heaven. There are a thousand-&-one substitutions for God’s place in foolish people’s life-lamps. But the foolish attendants are empty when the bridegroom arrives, because their faith was not filled with the one Christ & one Lord, Jesus.
So, when the foolish attendants go to the wise ones and say ‘give us some of your oil’, it’s not something the wise attendants can do. The wise ones are not being mean or selfish.
While we can share the gospel of Christ with others, we cannot give them ‘our faith’.
The Lord will not save our unbelieving friend just because we have faith. We can’t believe for them; they must trust the Lord.
The wise virgins are undeserving sinners, just as the foolish ones; for all have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God; none can enter His marriage feast on their own. But the wise attendants have their lamps of faith filled with Christ. This is by God’s grace, thru His Spirit working thru His Word & Church. The wise ones are not looking to the world for their guidance in life, or their hope & peace. Their one hope is in the one Son the Father sent into this world to save us, and to bring us safely home. To the wise, nothing in this life can ever be more important.
Which brings us to the 3rd main point of Jesus in his parable: the God-man who brings it all together = the Bridegroom Jesus. He alone is the Son of God, who came to wash His people clean in His own blood. His perfect life alone was able to substitute on the cross as the acceptable payment for the sins of the whole world. The wise believer is filled up with Christ, the Light of the world, and is always prepared to meet Him.
YOUR lamp has been filled with Christ; His Word informs & strengthens your faith during any trouble or temptation. You & I try to be wise & righteous, and when we come up short we have His daily promise of forgiveness; our Savior never turns His back on us.
Your lamp is filled with the assurance that you have been washed in His name at His baptismal font; you often don’t feel worthy, but He calls you His child & He cares for you.
Your lamp is filled with His promises, and that gives you courage to face criticism for living by God’s morals and Biblical teachings. It’s the same courage that enabled Noah to face mockery, and young David to face Goliath.
In this week of our national political elections, it’s clear that our nation is divided; not just ‘democrats & republicans’; but more importantly, divided between those who fear God & those who don’t. There are those willing to use lawlessness & cheating, and violence & immorality or gov’t control to reduce our Christian freedoms, and to decrease God’s influence on our gov’t & culture. This is the world we live it. We know our earthly blessings can come & go; but nothing can empty our lamps of faith! Nothing can remove us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord; and nothing can keep Him from arriving -on time- for the Last Day. And nothing will stop Him from bringing us into that marriage feast & wedding hall.
These things are not just human desires and fancy ideas for religious people to hope in. Our Creator, the Lord of heaven & earth, has made Himself known; He came to earth & spoke His promises for all people to hear & believe. This Christian faith has His own Word & proof & evidence for us to rely on; and He sends us His own Spirit to convince us.
We are convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, our Bridegroom =our life. Trusting Him, we will be wise now in our living, and prepared for the life to come.