I Peter, Chapter 4, Part 1

I Peter 4:1 – Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

In the prior chapter, Peter addresses the issue of Christians who are suffering.  He made a distinction between suffering because of doing wrong, and suffering for the sake of righteousness.  

When believers suffer righteously, they are to follow the example set by Jesus.  This was discussed at length in our prior posts from chapters 2 and 3. 

Up until now, the suffering that Peter was referring to was physical and/or mental suffering.  In chapter 4, Peter changes direction.  Still using Jesus as the ultimate example, he now begins to discuss a different type of suffering.

Before and during his crucifixion, Jesus allowed his physical body to suffer.  If you followed our study on the gospel of Matthew, you recall that Jesus was slapped, spit upon, whipped, humiliated, punched, had a crown of thorns smashed into his head, and was nailed to a tree.  This extraordinary suffering had a purpose – our redemption.

Peter now teaches that in light of the suffering Jesus submitted to in his physical body (due to our sin), we also should submit ourselves to suffering – that is, we should crucify our fleshly desires and abstain from sin.  This is a different kind of suffering than what was discussed in chapters 2 and 3, but it is suffering nevertheless. 

Just as Jesus did not shrink back from the literal crucifixion of his flesh, so we should not shrink back from crucifying the lusts and sinful desires of our flesh.  

In chapter 4, Peter will go on to teach that this involves a two-fold process.  Not only must we abstain from sin, but we must also embrace righteousness.  We will discuss this more at the appropriate point in our study.  For now, I just want us to note that ‘crucifying our flesh’ has both a negative side (abstention) and a positive side (embracing righteousness).             

So here in verse 1, believers are to arm themselves with the same mind, or ‘way of thinking’ that Jesus displayed. 

What mindset did Jesus display? He was committed to submitting to the Father’s will, no matter what kind of suffering this caused.  He was willing to pay the price for our sin, no matter how painful.  His mind was resolutely set against sin and toward holiness. 

Likewise, we should be committed to allowing Holy Spirit to make us over into the image of Christ.  As we already mentioned, part of this entails abstaining from evil desires, which will be painful for us at first.  Nevertheless, we should be fully committed to this because it is our heavenly Father’s will.  We too, must gain control of our minds and set them fully against sin and fully toward holiness. 

Here is why that is important:

As humans, we all have a mind, a will and a set of emotions.  If we allow our mind to be in charge, it will determine the best course of action based on the word of God.  Once we make a decision to follow biblical principles, our will ‘gets on board’ or gets in agreement with our mind.  In this scenario, our emotions will then be forced to come into agreement with the mind and will.

Alternatively, if we allow our emotions to rule us, they will make a decision based on how our flesh feels, regardless of what the word of God tells us is true.  Once our emotions are in control, our will ‘gets on board’ with the emotions, and the mind is then forced to come into agreement. 

Let’s consider an example – fasting.

The Christian discipline of fasting is biblical.  It entails denying your flesh something it wants to have for the purposes of seeking or hearing from God.  Although fasting from food is the most common observance, you can fast anything that your flesh craves such as television, shopping or even Facebook! 

Let’s suppose that you are reading the Bible and you feel a nudge from Holy Spirit to fast about an issue.  For the first few hours, everything is fine.  But soon you start to get hunger pains.  Your stomach is calling for nourishment – now! 

If your mind is committed to the fast, it will receive support from your will.  They become like partners.  When your emotions begin to whine and complain and scream for food, they will be silenced by the mind/will.  They will be forced to comply with the decision that the mind has made.  You should be able to resist the temptation to give up on the fast by eating a piece of pie.  

However, if your mind is not in control, then your emotions will be in charge.  As the stomach begins to demand food, the emotions grab a hold of the will, and together they decide what will happen – and the mind will be forced to comply by rationalizing the behavior the emotions demand.  To make a long story short, you will find yourself in the drive thru at Taco Bell, telling yourself that you didn’t really hear from Holy Spirit!   

The beginning of all true self denial and mortification of the flesh begins in the mind, not the body.

We are going to want to ‘arm’ ourselves with the same mind or way of thinking as Christ – allowing our minds to be in control, rather than our emotions. 

In this passage ‘arm’ refers to armor which men used to wear in battle.  Armor is normally considered a defensive weapon that protects a soldier from the strikes of his enemy.  In the same way, if believers are mentally prepared to suffer (crucify the flesh), then that mental preparedness is like armor, which will help protect us from the pressures of temptation.   

We should probably take a minute to note that this defense is only part of the equation.  The process of crucifying the flesh will require more than just a mindset – it requires help and strength from Holy Spirit too.

Peter then concludes that those who have suffered in the flesh, have ceased from sin.  In other words, the believer who has been inwardly and truly conformed to the image/sufferings of Christ has ceased, or been delivered, from sin.

I Peter 4:2 – so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Because of the forgiveness that Jesus purchased for us on the cross, we should live the rest of our earthly lives turning away from (crucifying) our corrupt and sinful desires.  Pride, envy, lust, hate, greed, etc are all part of our sinful nature and we must put an end to them in our lives. 

But what happens then?  Should we be walking around like robots without any feelings, emotions, goals or desires?  Of course not!

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’?  This saying expresses the idea that unfilled or empty spaces go against the laws of nature, and that every space needs to be filled with something.

Peter seems to have understood this concept, because immediately after instructing Christians to get rid of corrupt and sinful desires, he tells us to fully embrace the will of God in our lives.   

As old sinful desires are pruned away, good and holy desires must be grafted in.  Hate is replaced by godly love, pride is banished by a humble spirit, greed gives way to generosity and so on.  

For example, if you want to remove gossip from your life, you can’t just stop talking.  That may work for a short time, but not for long.  Instead, you need to embrace the will of God by changing what you say – speak encouragement and life into people instead of death/gossip.  In fact, prayer is a great way to fill the vacuum that will occur when you stop gossiping!     

So crucifying the flesh has two parts – the removal of what is sinful and the addition of what is holy.

It’s a good thing we have the rest of our lives to make these changes, because there is a lot to work on!

I Peter 4:3 – For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

In this case, the term Gentile is a generic term that stands for heathen or sinner.  All of us were sinners before we served Christ.  During that time we lived in the indulgence of corrupt passions, including (but not limited to) drunkenness, sexual sins and idolatry.

As sinners we did this because we were ignorant of God’s ways.  But once we accepted Christ and were forgiven, we became a new creation; it would be unreasonable for us to continue in the ways of sin. 

Now we must live in faith as soldiers for Christ, redeeming or making good use of the time we have left on planet earth.

Ephesians 5:15-16 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Although our past is behind us and cannot be changed, it can still be a useful reminder to spur us on to greater holiness.  

I Peter 4:4 – With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

When we become new creatures in Christ it makes perfect sense to us to put off wickedness and sin.  However, our friends and family, who are still living as sinners, may not understand this. 

In their eyes, it seems strange that you would give up the pleasures of this world for a life that seems to promise anything but happiness and ease.  Because they are not in touch with the eternal world, they cannot understand or appreciate the conduct of those who live with regard to the next life.

They find nothing wrong with the sinful pleasures of this world, and they may find it strange that we reject practices that seem innocent, harmless and pleasurable to them.  It may seem especially strange because we used to enjoy these things too.

The world often reacts to this situation by condemning Christians.  We are often labeled as hypocrites, fanatics or fools.  These terms are meant to injure/condemn the character and reputation of Christians who no longer align themselves with the world. 

I Peter 4:5 – but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The ‘living and the dead’ is a metaphor which speaks to the inclusion of all people, regardless of whether or not they still walk the earth.  Peter’s aim in this verse is to comfort and encourage believers.  We should patiently and righteously bear the opposition we face from unbelievers because our heavenly Father sees and hears it.  There is no need for us to attempt to avenge ourselves; at the proper time God will vindicate his children and judge the wicked. 

Although we don’t know the exact time when this will take place, we are reminded that Jesus already sits at the right hand of God, and he is ‘ready’ to judge even now.

Romans 14:12 – So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Peter was encouraging his spiritual children to live as though the return of Christ was imminent.  We should still be living with that same attitude.  Even if Jesus tarries another thousand years, we are always living ‘in the last days’ in a sense, because we never know when our last day on earth will be!  

I Peter 4:6 – For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The interpretation of this verse varies widely, depending on how you define ‘dead’.

Some feel that ‘dead’ refers to people who are spiritually dead in trespasses – ordinary sinners, who are physically alive right now (Ephesians 2:1).  In this case, the interpretation would be that the gospel was preached to sinners when they were spiritually dead, so that each person might strive against, mortify and subdue their own carnal appetites and lusts.   As they do, God makes them spiritually alive. 

Another interpretation is that ‘dead’ refers to people whose physical bodies are literally dead.  In this case, the interpretation would be that the gospel was made known to them when they walked the earth, so that they might have a chance to crucify their sinful desires and live for God.  These people were made spiritually alive by the gospel, while their flesh was put to death by men (martyrs).

There are also some who interpret ‘dead’ to mean those who had died long ago (the antediluvians), and had their spirits imprisoned down in Hades/Sheol/the grave.  Those who accept this interpretation also believe that Jesus went down to Hades after his physical death and preached to the lost (see one of the explanations of I Peter 3:19-20).

In any case, the apostle is again offering hope and comfort to the believer.  By the world’s standards, physical death means total destruction.  But for the Christian, physical death simply means life in the Spirit with God. 

I Peter 4:7 – The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

What does the phrase ‘the end of all things’ refer to?  It may be a reference to the end of the world/the conclusion of human affairs.  In this case, Peter’s meaning would be that the end of the world (the return of Jesus) was near.

Alternatively, we know from history that the city of Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 71 AD, effectively bringing an end to the Jewish way of life and worship.  This occurred less than a decade after Peter penned his epistle, and thus may have been the event he was referring to.      

However, the phrase may also refer to the physical death of each individual.  In this case, his meaning was that so far as his readers were concerned, the end was near.  As we mentioned earlier, even if Jesus tarries another thousand years, the end of all things is still at hand for each individual because they do not know the time of their death.  

In any case (personal demise, destruction of Jerusalem or the return of Christ), the point is that our time on earth will quickly draw to a close.  In light of this, Peter goes on to give a series of exhortations to believers. 

The first exhortation is that we ought to be sober minded and have self control.  In other words, we should be actively involved in crucifying our fleshly desires, as mentioned back in verse 3 and giving up the wicked practices we engaged in before we came to Christ. 

Instead of indulging in the vain cares and pleasures of earth, we should be good stewards of all we posses, including resources, time and talents.  We should be constantly in a state of prayer, making sure that we are ready for eternity.   

I Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

And, more than anything, we need to have a warm affection and brotherly love towards other Christians.  We must practice this love earnestly, and with fervor.  What does this mean?

It means that our love for each other should be active and tangible.  It should not only manifest in our words, but in our deeds.  For example, if our Christian brother or sister has experienced the death of a spouse, we should not only tell them how sorry we are; we should show them.  We can do this by giving them a hug, coming to the funeral, bringing a gift of food or flowers, etc.  Our tangible actions can really ease the burden they are experiencing. 

Why, exactly, are we to practice such fervent love?  Because it covers a multitude of sins.

This is true with respect to ourselves.  If we are busy ministering to our brothers/sisters, we are much more likely to have compassion towards them, as opposed to judging them.  We are much more likely to overlook or pass by their faults and failings which tend to irritate and anger us. 

It also covers or hides their sins from the eyes of the world.  If we expose every single fault within the church, nonbelievers will be happy to discredit the church as well as the cross of Christ.  It is better to suffer wrongs than stir up strife. 

Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.   

However, we must exercise caution – if we cover up sins using flattery or falsehood, that is not only a disgrace but a sin in and of itself.  And there are some sins which, if covered up, will fester into bigger problems or cause destruction in the church.  These sins cannot be covered over, but they can be dealt with in love.  These are the duties of the Christian life.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Remember, the war against your sinful nature/flesh begins with your mind.  You will need to renew or reprogram your thinking with the word of God.  Meditating on scriptures and making daily declarations are a good way to begin the process.  However, you don’t need to try and figure this out all by yourself.  Many excellent Christian books have been written on this topic, and are readily available.  I encourage you to check some out.     

Let me offer you some relief:

Crucifying your flesh is not an instantaneous transformation.  It is a process over time.  You may fail a time or two before you gain the victory, but victory will come if you don’t give up.  You might want to consider finding a prayer/victory partner for yourself as you work through the process.  They can be there to offer encouragement and prayer when needed.  

Let me offer you some strength:

The Bible says that nothing is impossible with God and that includes gaining control over your sinful nature.  Confess your sin and repent before the Lord.  Ask Holy Spirit to be involved in the change you are committed to making.  He probably prompted you to make the change in the first place, because he is interested in making you over into the image of Christ.  He will give you the strength to overcome!   

 

Matthew, Chapter 25, Part 1

Matthew 25:1 – Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.

Here we find a couple of key words.  The first is ‘then’.  Remember, chapter 25 is a continuation of the discussion of chapter 24.  The disciples have asked Jesus three questions: 

When shall these things be? (Referring to the actual timing of events).  What will be the sign of your coming? (Referring to the signs that will indicate to the Jews that the end of the temple/Old Covenant are near).  And finally, what are the signs of the end of the world? (Literally, the end of time).

Jesus has addressed the first two questions in chapter 24.  So the phrase ‘then’ at the start of chapter 25 is significant.  It means that what Jesus is about to say specifically pertains to the final question regarding the end of time. 

This brings us to the next significant word in this verse, which is ‘will’.  In other instances, Jesus said ‘the kingdom of heaven is like’.  This indicated present tense; Jesus was referring to the current time. 

Now he transitions to using the future tense:  ‘the kingdom of heaven will be like’.  Again, this points to a future phase of the kingdom of heaven, the one that will be in place at the end of time.

Jesus uses this parable to impart wisdom to us about the end of time.  This parable made perfect sense to the Jews, because they were well acquainted with the marriage customs of that day.  For our understanding, a quick review of these customs is helpful.

In that day, couples were betrothed long before the marriage.  The betrothal was actually the true marriage contract, even though the marriage was not consummated at that time, and the woman continued to live in her father’s house until the time she was claimed by the groom. 

This explains why Joseph was going to divorce Mary when he found out she was pregnant.  Notice in the following verses she is ‘betrothed’ to him, but they are not living together and he must go through a legal process (divorce) to break off his ties with her.   

Matthew 1:18-19 –  Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  

Now, according to Jewish custom, when the time for the marriage celebration finally arrived, the bridegroom and his friends came, late at night, to the house of the bride.  She was expecting/watching for his arrival with her bridesmaids.  When the groom was spotted, the maidens would go out with their lamps in their hands to light up the way to the house with great ceremony and formality.  They would accompany the bride to the wedding feast prepared by the groom.  This feast was always held at the groom’s house.

The two main characters in this parable are both introduced in verse one.  Who are they? 

First, we have the bridegroom.  This represents our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Many times in the New Testament he is referred to as the bridegroom (Mark 2:19-20, John 3:28-9).  This simile reflects the great and passionate love that Jesus has for his spouse, the church (Ephesians 5:32). 

We are currently betrothed to him (Hosea 2:19-20), but he has not yet come to earth to claim us for eternity.  But when the perfect time has come, He will gather us to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).

The second character in this parable is the group of 10 virgins.  These symbolize people who profess to have a relationship to God. 

Just as the virgins or bridesmaids were supposed to be watching expectantly for the groom, so we are to be expectantly looking for the second coming of Christ. We are not just to believe in it, but rejoice at the thought of it.  We should long for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).  The fact of his future coming should affect our entire life – it should be a guide in all that we do, think, say and feel.        

The chief duty of the bridesmaids was to have their lights shining brightly as they honor and do service to the bridegroom.  Likewise, we are to let our gospel lights shine before the world in honor and service to Jesus our King (Philippians 2:15-16).  

Matthew 25:2 – Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.

 Jesus tells us that some of the bridesmaids in this group are wise.  Some are not.  When they all stand in a group together, it is impossible for us to tell which are which. 

If they represent people who profess to know God, then it is clear that the wise virgins are those that have a true and sincere relationship with God.  The foolish virgins are hypocrites.  They profess to know God, but they are not truly his children. 

They may know the Christian lingo, they may attend church services and sing worship songs, but they have not surrendered their hearts to Jesus Christ.  They are foolish.   

Matthew 25:3-4 – For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

Their folly is in their lack of oil.  They had just enough oil to make their lamps burn for a short time, but they were not prepared if the bridegroom should delay his coming. 

Does this sound vaguely familiar?  It should.  Jesus expressed the same situation in the parable of the seeds:

Matthew 13:5-6 – Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and immediately they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:   And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 

The foolish bridesmaids have no ‘reserves’.  They have a lamp of profession in their hands, but they lack a true change in their hearts.  They do not know the word.  They are not rooted in their faith.  Love does not rule their lives.  They cannot endure even a small trial or tribulation.  Despite what comes out of their mouths, they are void of true spiritual life.  Isaiah describes them this way:

Isaiah 48:1 – Hear this, O house of Jacob… who swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.

Essentially, they are hypocrites.  They have taken pains to convince their fellow bridesmaids that they have burning lights, but they cannot fool the one who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

This is opposed to the wise, who did have reserves of oil.  Think of it this way – your heart is a vessel.  Holy Spirit, the fuel/oil for your Christian walk, resides there; He fills your heart with power to serve Christ.  He is the one who gives us strength to withstand trials and tribulations.  He is the one who guides us into all truth.  He points out good works for us to accomplish.  He is the ‘down payment’ that guarantees our salvation.  Without him, our Christian lights would quickly be extinguished.   

Zechariah gives us a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit being the oil in our lamps in his vision in Zechariah chapter 4. 

Zechariah 4:6 – Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.    

How well are you acquainted with Holy Spirit? Do you work with him each day to accomplish the will of God?  If not, I suggest you get to know him better.  He is your power for righteous living; with his assistance, your light will shine before men, causing them to give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).

Matthew 25:5 – As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.

Notice that all of the virgins sleep – the wise as well as the foolish.  How are we to interpret this ‘sleep’?

One interpretation says that ‘sleeping’ is used in a shameful sense.  This theory says that Christians have become spiritually apathetic.  They have chosen to be happy and content sitting in church and hearing the word of God, but not really going out to work in the kingdom.  They have stopped fighting against the devil; they have grown spiritually lazy.  Instead of harvesting souls, they are slumbering.

Another interpretation says that ‘sleep’ actually denotes earthly occupations and cares.  This theory says that as long as we dwell on earth, we must devote a certain part of our lives to working, eating, learning, family duties, etc.  These things can distract us from our relationship with Christ.  In this interpretation, that distraction is the same as falling asleep.

The third and most common interpretation is that ‘sleep’ refers to physical death.  This analogy is frequently used in scripture.  We are all going to die at some point, saints and sinners alike.  We are also all going to be resurrected at some point.  The saints of God (wise virgins) rise to eternal life while the sinners who reject Christ (foolish virgins) will rise to eternal death.

Regardless of which interpretation you think is correct, one thing is certain – the bridegroom tarried or was delayed.  The ‘delay’ refers to the period of time that began when Jesus went up into heaven, and it ends with the rapture – the time when he comes to claim the church (his bride) as his own. 

No man knows when this will take place.  The believers back in Jesus’ day thought it would happen in their lifetime, but it didn’t.  Many of our own Christian ancestors felt it would happen in their lifetimes, but it didn’t.  

However, this doesn’t negate the promise of his coming.  God has many plans and purposes that he wants to accomplish before he returns.  The harvest of the earth must have time to ripen and we must have time to harvest it.  The church must be purified, becoming without spot or wrinkle.  God is always faithful to carry out what he has promised.  Therefore we know that when the perfect time has arrived, Jesus will come again!   

How much do you dwell on the return of Christ?  Is it only a vague thought in the back of your mind?  Does it somehow make you uneasy?  Or is it a truth that drives you forward in your zeal for the Lord?

The writer of Hebrews says this:

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

In other words, while Jesus tarries, we need to have a firm grip on the hope we have in Christ.  We need to constantly remind ourselves that although the world is a mess, Jesus will bring all things under his authority.  He has an appointed time to come and claim his bride, the church.  He has an appointed time in which he will rise up, break the seals of the scroll (Revelation 5), and usher in the eternal age. 

The promises he has given us regarding his return and our home with him in heaven are rock solid.  We need to find scriptures that speak of these things, and keep them in our minds and hearts, even committing them to memory.  

Way back in the book of Genesis, God promised Eve that he would send a deliverer to free mankind from sin.  She thought it would happen in her lifetime, but it didn’t.  Yet, the promise was still valid.  At the appointed time, Jesus came to earth and sacrificed his life for us all, proving that God was faithful to his promise.

Habakkuk 2:3 – For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

So it will be with the rapture.  We may or may not see it in our lifetime, but the promise is sure.  The appointed time will come.  God is faithful to all that he has promised.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…

Our time on earth should always be lived with the realization that Christ is returning.  We should speak of this often to one another, reminding each other that lost opportunities can never be regained.  We need to work for the kingdom today; there is no promise of tomorrow. 

In light of his future coming, we should support each other in our endeavors for Christ.  We should pray without ceasing. We should rejoice at all times.  We should love the lost, even if they don’t agree with our point of view and be ready to share the gospel on all occasions. 

Above all, we need to be filled with the mighty Holy Spirit, who will lead and guide us during our time on earth.

Hebrews 10:25 – …not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

If at all possible, I encourage you to be in fellowship with each other.  If you can go to church, by all means, do so!  The church needs you!  There are people there who need your wisdom and experiences.  They need to hear your testimony.  They need you to lay hands on them, and pray for them or share a prophetic word. 

If It isn’t possible for you to come to church for some reason, I encourage you to find a very small group of family or friends that you are comfortable with, and fellowship with them.  Listen to sermons together.  Worship together.  Pray for each other.  Serve communion to each other.  Be a strength to others when they are weak, and they will do the same for you.

And all of us need to encourage each other.  Don’t assume that just because someone is smiling or saying they are fine, that they don’t need an encouraging word.  Jesus tells us that in the final era of time, the world will be wicked, violent and haters of God.  In that environment, we had better be in the practice of encouraging each other.

Matthew 25:6 – But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

In the parable, the bridegroom arrives suddenly and unexpectedly.  A loud cry goes forth, waking the virgins from their slumber.  The time of the celebration has finally arrived and they must arise immediately to meet the long awaited groom. 

What does this mean to us? 

THE KING IS COMING! 

There used to be an old saying that the only two sure things in life were death and taxes.  That saying is only half right; the two sure things in life are death and the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

John 14:3 – And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

How will you use your time on earth until Christ returns or calls you home through death?  Will you invest all your time and resources on the things of this life, or will you store up treasures in heaven?

Matthew 25:7 – Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.

When the virgins arose and trimmed their lamps, they were preparing for the imminent coming of the bridegroom.  They were making themselves ready to receive him. 

Spiritually speaking, men and women will often scramble to prepare themselves to meet God when they feel death is imminent.  But alas!  It is often too late.  The best time to prepare for eternity is right now. 

The question has been asked, ‘How can we live a life that is pleasing to God?’

The answer, of course, is ‘one day at a time.’

Each and every day we need to live for Christ.  Each day, read the word.  Each day, spend time with God in prayer and worship.  Each day, look for opportunities to plant the seed of the word of God, or water that seed in someone’s life or harvest a soul for Christ.  Each day, encourage and disciple others.  Each day, find a way to strike a blow at our enemy.  Then, when the call comes for us to meet Christ, whether through death or his return, we will be ready to meet him.  Our vessels will be full of oil.    

Matthew 25:8-9 – And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’   But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’

Now the foolish virgins become aware of their need for fuel.  It suddenly occurs to them that they have been foolish in preparing for the wedding celebration.  They are not ready for the events that have come upon them.  How terrifying that feeling would be!   

At the same time, it occurs to them that others are well prepared.  Those they despised or mocked for their deep commitment to preparing for the bridegroom, are now revealed as wise.  How the foolish wish they were like them now!

In their desperation, they appeal to the wise for help, but the wise cannot share what they have laid up for themselves; the foolish must procure their own oil.

Spiritually speaking, there will be people who come face to face with death (or the return of Christ) and suddenly realize that they are unprepared.  Their excuses are no good, nor can they rely on the merits of someone else.  We shall all be judged individually.  Those who want to be welcomed by the bridegroom must have personal preparation, personal faith and personal holiness.  We have no authority to accept grace and salvation for someone else.  Each person has the right to decide for themselves what their relationship to God will be.

So the wise give the foolish a wise answer – go to the dealers (the ministers of the gospel) and get what you need.

In fact, the advice to “go and buy for yourselves” is exactly what the wise have done.    Right up until the time the cry/signal came announcing the appearance of the bridegroom, grace and mercy had been available without limit:

Isaiah 55:1, 3 – Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live… 

The wise took full advantage of this offer, listening to the words of God and accepting salvation through the shed blood of Christ. 

All of a sudden, the foolish virgins want to buy grace and mercy, but it is too late.  The situation has changed.  The salvation they are now desperately seeking was only available until they drew their last breath.  Once they died, they no longer had access to it.    

Matthew 25:10 – And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.

The implication here is clear.  Those who are prepared to meet the bridegroom (Jesus) are admitted into the kingdom of God.  Once they were all inside, the way was shut.

Here is something interesting to consider.  The scriptures say that when the flood came, Noah and his family entered the ark and God shut the door:

Genesis 7:16 – And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

This was not a mistake or an afterthought.  It is a reflection of the wisdom of God.  I am sure that once the flood came, many of the wicked who failed to take the message of repentance seriously came to Noah’s back yard and pounded on the door of the ark, begging to be let in.  But Noah was relieved of any burden in that respect – God had shut the door; only he could open it.

The same is true in this parable.  When the bridegroom shut the door, no one else was admitted. 

Likewise, when the door to heaven is shut, no one will be able to cross that threshold either.

Revelation 3:8 – I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it…

No one can shut a door that God opens; no one can open a door he has shut.

What does this mean for the foolish?

The door of opportunity was closed – those who had many opportunities to repent but always put it off until ‘tomorrow’ have now lost their chance.

The door of mercy was closed – God is longsuffering to all men, but there is a time limit.  When we die or Christ returns, the age of grace will end for us.

The door of hope was closed – Jesus is the only hope of eternal life; there is no other name under heaven whereby you can be saved.  If you have rejected him, all hope is lost for you.  

The door of heaven was closed – Those who reject heaven will still find an open door – the door to the bottomless pit of hell. 

What does this mean for the righteous?

The door is closed to all effects of sin – No death, disease, mental illness, broken relationships or heartache will be allowed through heaven’s door.

The door is closed to the worries of earthly life – No longer will we concern ourselves over food, clothes, money, education or work. 

The door is closed to death – We will never again experience death ourselves, nor will we be affected by the death of anyone we love.    

The door is closed to all wickedness – No murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters or liars will be allowed to enter heaven’s door (Revelation 21:8).

Which side of the door are you on?

Matthew 25:11-12 – Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us,’ but he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

Though the foolish cry out to the bridegroom, they are too late. It will be too late to ask for mercy when the day of judgment arrives.

Matthew 7:21 – Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus, who knows the thoughts and intents of every heart, says emphatically that he does not know these foolish people.  They have made a vain profession of religion with their mouths, but they hearts and lives were unchanged. 

Matthew 25:13 – Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

 And now we come to the ultimate message of the parable.  Jesus warns all of us to be watchful every day, for we do not know the time or date of his return (or our own deaths).  We must live every day in close communion with our Lord, believing and rejoicing in the knowledge that he will one day come and usher us into heaven to be with him forever!   

Let me give you some encouragement:

As long as I can remember, I have heard people say that Christ could come any day.  The fact that he hasn’t yet, does not mean that he won’t.  It just means that he has an appointed time set aside to come and claim his bride.  So take heart!  One day all our struggles will be over.  One day we will be ushered into the wonderful marriage supper of the lamb and we will dwell with Christ forever.

In the meantime, I suggest that you find several scriptures that speak of the return of Christ and his great love for the church, and memorize them.  They will be a wonderful encouragement to you.  

Let me give you some relief:

People talk a lot about the end of time, referring to it as the apocalypse or Armageddon.    They frequently describe it as a time of upheaval and distress; a time of economic chaos and violence; a time of lawlessness when every man must look out for himself.

 But to the true child of God, the end of time is not a time to be afraid or worried.  It is a time of rejoicing, because Christ will return for us, his bride.  On that day we will find relief from sin and death.  

Let me give you some strength:

As Christians, we all want to be more like Christ.  Usually, that does not happen all at once.  It happens little by little, day by day.  So forget the mistakes of your past.  Move ahead and achieve the things that are before you, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

Matthew, Chapter 7, Part 2

Matthew 7:15-16–Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

Sometimes we assume the word ‘prophet’ to mean a person who foretells future events, but that is not the only definition.  People who were accepted as public religious instructors were also considered prophets. 

At the time of Jesus, the word basically meant all religious leaders (especially teachers), and that is the sense it is used in this passage.

What made a person a false prophet?   A prophet/teacher was considered false for any one of these reasons:

  • Assuming the role of religious leader/teacher without a call from God
  • Putting forward his/her own thoughts and ideas as being from God
  • Teaching any false doctrine

What effect did false prophets/teachers have on the church?  Through false teaching, Christians were fooled into turning aside from the true faith and believing something false.  These false doctrines caused believers to become spiritually confused or bound by lies, and consequently rendered them ineffective in the Kingdom of God.  Worse yet, some of these doctrines could cause Christians to fall away from their faith in Christ.

Second, the teachings and leadership of the false prophets often brought them undue honor and prestige. They acted like they were the only ones who could hear from God and know what to do.  At best, they were limiting the true relationship between the believer and God.  At worst, they were a wedge that cut believers off from God and caused them to lose their faith.

Let’s look at an example.  In the old covenant, all men who were part of God’s chosen people had to be circumcised.  However, when Jesus came to fulfill the law, he declared that circumcision was no longer something to be done in the flesh.  Instead, circumcision was a spiritual act; all the people in His kingdom would be circumcised in their hearts by cutting sin out of their lives.

Romans 2:28-29 – For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.

But we find that many false prophets and false teachers were still insisting that any man who became a Christian had to be circumcised in the flesh.

This false doctrine caused a rift between the Jews and the Gentiles, which threatened to split the church in half.  It created an atmosphere of distrust among the believers. It was a rejection of the new covenant that Jesus paid for with his blood. 

If Satan could coax Christians into holding onto physical circumcision, he had a substantial chance of sinking the whole church before it was fully established!  This is only a glimpse of the destruction that false teaching can set in motion.

False teachers were also big into self denial and mortification of the flesh.  They tended to be very rule oriented; they felt that every single law must be stringently observed through their own willpower. How tiresome!  Have you ever determined not to do something “ever again” only to find yourself doing it a day later?  That’s what happens when you try to rule your flesh by willpower alone.

Sadly, they missed the blessing that Jesus gave us through the new covenant – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who changes our hearts.  Once our hearts and minds have been renewed, our outward actions naturally change too.  We don’t have to focus all of our energy on obeying every law through sheer willpower because our new nature will prompt us to do the right thing on its own.

Jesus says that false teachers are like wolves disguised as sheep.  That is, they appear to be innocent, helpful, loving and knowledgeable about spiritual things, but in reality, they are full of deadly evil.  They are hypocrites who mislead and destroy sincere believers.

So, how can a Christian keep from being fooled by these false prophets and teachers?

Matthew 7:17-18 – So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Comparing spiritual leaders/teachers to fruit trees may seem a bit strange, but it makes more sense if you have some background information:  In scripture and in Jewish phraseology, fruits are symbolic of works.  Jesus is telling us that the way to determine which teachers are false and which are true is by examining their fruits, or works.

So if a person comes along claiming to have spiritual authority, take a look at their life.  Do they have joy, peace, holiness, patience, gentleness and love for mankind?  Do they give God the glory for what they are accomplishing? Do they care for the poor and the lost?  

If so, they are a healthy tree which is bringing forth good fruit.  They can be trusted to lead you in the right paths.

However, if you look at the person’s life and find anger, pride, envy, slander, greed, unforgiveness, bitterness or other evils you can safely conclude they are a bad/diseased tree.  Therefore, both the teacher and the teaching should be rejected as false.  Have no part with them!

Matthew 7:19-20 – Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Hmmm… some of these words seem familiar…where did we heard them before?  That’s right – they were already spoken to the Pharisees and other religious leaders by John the Baptist:

Matthew 3:10 – And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

People who bring forth diseased fruit (anger, envy, pride, etc) will someday be cast into the fires of hell, because they are not true children of God.  That is why John the Baptist warned the Scribes and Pharisees to repent and seek the kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 7:21-23 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

You see, it is not enough to just claim God as your father or Jesus as your savior.  It is not enough to just have knowledge of God in your head.  You could study the scriptures for years on end (like the Pharisees did), but if it is just a series of facts floating around in your brain, it is of no value.  [Even Satan acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God, but he is still going to be cast into the fires of hell].  Why?  Because it takes more than just factual knowledge to save your soul.

True knowledge of God must be like a seed planted in your heart by the Holy Spirit.  It must germinate and take root. 

As the Holy Spirit waters it, it will grow and transform your life.  It will change both your thoughts and your actions.  It will result in good works such as joy, peace, forgiveness and love, which are good fruits.  Your life will conform to God’s will.  These are the marks of true children of God who will be welcomed into heaven.

In the same way, anyone who has the ability to speak can verbally profess Jesus as Lord, and even teach (prophesy) his word, but that does not mean they are true children of God.  The true child of God doesn’t just teach or profess his name, they sincerely strive to do the will of God.  True Christians have actions that align with their words.

At the end of time, Jesus will assume his rightful role as judge of mankind.  At that time, there will be people who will claim to be servants of Christ because they taught his word (prophesying), cast out demons and performed miracles.  However, Jesus will refute their claims, saying that these people were never his true children.  Jesus then reinforces his point by giving the parable of the wise and foolish builders (see below).

Jesus has given the analogy of the tree and fruit to identify false teachers and show what their judgment will be.  He now gives us the parable of the wise and foolish builders to show that the ‘doers’ of the word are different from just ‘hearers’ of the word, and all of us will be held accountable for our own spiritual condition.

Matthew 7:24-25 –Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:26-27 – And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Jesus has packed a lot of teaching into this short parable.  Here are some lessons we can take away from his teaching:

Each one of us is responsible for building our own house.  We cannot rely on others to do it for us.  You cannot rely on the faith and salvation of your parents, grandparents or anyone else.  You must be a disciple of Christ yourself.

Jesus is the rock.  He is the only one who can pardon sin through his shed blood and thus he is the only true foundation that you can build your spiritual house upon.

1 Corinthians 3:11 – For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Hearing the word is NOT building upon it.  Building is acting in faith based upon the words you heard.

When you hear that Jesus forgives sin, you must act in faith to receive that forgiveness for yourself.  Subsequent to your salvation, the Holy Spirit will enlighten you to the way God wants you to live.  He will then assist you as you bring your mind, will, emotions and actions into conformity with God’s principles for your life.  This is how you build upon the foundation of Christ.  Building a house in the natural world does not happen overnight, especially if there is only a single builder.  So it is with your spiritual house – you build it day by day; it is established slowly over time as you constantly work at it.

The storms of life will eventually come to all men regardless of which foundation they build upon.  Those who build on the foundation of Christ will stand.  They will be victorious through disease, political instability, financial ruin, persecution, etc.  They are even victorious in death, knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

However, those who did not build upon Jesus will have no hope in the storms of life.  They will have no comfort, no peace, no joy and no satisfaction when trouble comes.  They have no eternal assurance to lean upon when death comes to claim them.

As you consider these teachings of Jesus, examine yourself and make sure that you are indeed building by faith upon that sure foundation!

Matthew 7:28-29 – And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

The Scribes and Pharisees were the teachers of the Jewish nation.  However, they spent their time teaching mostly the traditions of their forefathers, not the word of God.  They also allowed useless and trivial disputes to occupy much of their time and attention.  As such, they were of little use to the spiritual growth of their fellow Jews.

Jesus, however, came speaking the true words of God.  He came in authority, confirming his doctrine with miracles.  Jesus showed that he had the authority to explain, enforce and change the ceremonial laws of the Jews.  He cut right through the foolishness of the Pharisees, revealing the truth like a breath of fresh air.  This authority was astounding to the Jews.

So let me offer you some encouragement:

It is true that there are many false teachers in the world, but you don’t have to be fooled by them!  Jesus has given you the tools to pick out the bad ‘apples’.

First, take a look at their fruits.  If they are good, that is a positive sign.  Next, listen to what they are teaching.  Does it line up with the rest of scripture?  That is another good indicator.  Finally, remember that Jesus says his sheep know his voice and they will not listen to the voice of another (see John 10).  So pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about a particular teacher.  If God approves him, that is the best recommendation of all!

Let me offer you some relief: 

Even a very fruitful grape vine will produce some sour grapes once in a while.  In the same way, you and I are not perfect.  Once in a while we are going to ‘blow it’, or act according to our flesh instead of our spirit.  When that happens, ask God to forgive you and move on.  Don’t let Satan stop you in your tracks because you made a mistake.  If your life is showing a definite progression towards fruitfulness and good works, you are on the right track.

Let me offer you some strength: 

We are going to experience storms in this life.  They come in many different forms, including sickness, tough financial breaks, relationship problems, and many other things.  When those storms come, the person who has built their life on the solid rock of Christ Jesus WILL prevail!  We will go through those trials comforted, supported and protected by our Heavenly Father.  Hallelujah – His strength is made perfect in our weakness!

Our Bible Study is Changing!

Exciting News!!! Our Wednesday Night Adult Bible Study is transitioning through time and space and is landing in “The Future” by becoming an interactive online BLOG! This is being rolled out on January 1st and we look forward to interacting with all of you (our family) “ONLINE”! It is going to be fun to watch what the Lord does as we grow into our new online presence and beyond the walls of our Church Building! Think of it like this: One small step for Kipton, one Giant Leap for His Kingdom!

Stay tuned for updates as we prepare to launch our BLOG in full!