As the apostle John said, with the end of the last hour many antichrists would have arisen and the apostle Paul added that they would have taught
"twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves”.
(1 John 2:18; Acts 20:29, 30) Things went just as predicted, and by the second / third century after Christ there was practically no trace of true worship. The king, Rome,
led to apostasy to those who acted wickedly against the covenant’
when Christianity became a state religion. (Daniel 11:32) From that moment on, God's flock has been mistreated, humiliated and torn apart by these oppressive wolves. Now, however, we should focus precisely on the word “God's flock”.
Did the false worship eliminate the flock of God, or the people who always tried to know God in Spirit and Truth, within the limits of what they could do? If so, John, Paul and others would have said that after their departure there would be exclusively oppressive wolves but a wolf, to identify itself as such, must also eat a sheep. It is said that these
would not have treated the flock with tenderness’
and these words show that in full apostasy, during the absolute domination of the wolves, there has always been a flock of sheep. Moreover, these people compared to sheep seem to have some attention from God, regardless of the false teachings received, as the words of the Apostle Paul show concern for their condition.
They would not have been treated with tenderness. This seems to be in harmony with the parable of the wheat and the weeds that the Lord told in the ears of his disciples. Before this, however, He explained why he was teaching through the use of parables. The Lord said clearly:
“to you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the Kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not granted”
and this could be the reason why today virtually all religious organisations have attributed themselves the fulfilment of the parable of the ten virgins:
they were not allowed to understand.
In the aforesaid parable the Lord tells of a man who sows excellent seed in his field but, when slaves sleep, an enemy sows the weeds and goes away. When the slaves wake up they notice "something strange" and in fact ask:
“‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said, ‘No, for fear that while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the harvest season, I will tell the reapers: First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up; then gather the wheat into my storehouse’”.
- Matthew 13:24-30
We know this parable well, but perhaps we never reflected on certain details. First of all, we see that the division between wheat and weeds occurs near judgment; this should at least make us think if the restoration of true worship can really happen a hundred years before or just a few years before … and other interesting details.
However, to stay in the theme of this article, we clearly see that wheat grows together with the weeds until the time of the end. Jesus is the excellent sower and indeed he was the personification of Truth (John 14:6) He planted the seed of truth and his teachings are present in the gospels, however the devil hastened to sow unsuitable seed to confound and stifle the truth. Did this action by Satan eliminate the wheat? According to what the parable says, no. It is true that wheat is practically suffocated, that is, it is prevented from growing and flourishing not only in numbers but also in healthy teaching, but in fact it continues to exist until the time of the end.
As we have seen in previous articles, in past centuries there have been several people who have tried to bring "their own religious organisation or individual believers" back to the gospel, even though they themselves were still partly influenced by the teachings of the weeds. Almost everyone has done a horrible end: they have been torn apart by wolves. It is no coincidence that Satan has put these people right in the command posts. If the weeds had taken the place of the wheat, there would have been no such crimes: the world would have shown affection for what is its. Instead, all the religious persecution that has characterised the past two millennia shows that a part of these believers, within the limits of their influenced condition, were still considered "wheat" and "sheep" by the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously the distinction is not as clear as it might seem because not everyone was persecuted for the sake of Truth (some only tried to undermine the dominant power to take their place) and indeed some of these became even worse than their own persecutors. Satan certainly played his cards well because it was practically impossible, from a human point of view, to distinguish true worshipers from fakes.
If we really have understood this parable, it should not be too difficult to get to the next step.
If the wheat had continued to exist even in full apostasy and until the restoration of the true worship (event still future) where would we find it? The answer is simple: spread in various "congregations" within religious organisations.
Let us not mess around: the ten virgins can not represent religious organisations due to the concepts just expressed. No religious organisation can be compared to a virgin. On the contrary, as we said in a previous article, Satan has made sure to put "the right people" at the head of every religious organisation and at various levels so that the Truth of the Word of God does not prosper. Even assuming that there is, on the whole, some exceptions, until true worship is restored no religious organisation can define itself as the organisation of God. So we can say that religious organisations, all of them, are instruments of Satan, essentially centred on themselves and then coercive toward those who "leave the rules"; rules that are certainly not biblical but functional to the very existence of the organisation. You can try on your own skin that everything can be discussed, everything, but not what will tend to undermine a certain hierarchy. This should prompt to a careful reflection all those who have teaching duties within any religious organisation. – James 3:1
Having made this important distinction, the fact remains that wheat – or sheep – must be scattered somewhere, right?
Well, in what other "place" could this category of people be found, if not in the various religious organisations, that is to say that place where, over the centuries, they have been eaten by oppressive wolves? Let us proceed with caution as we review the rest of the Scriptures without prejudice.
Could this really be the meaning of the parable of the ten virgins? Take, for example, the warnings given by the Lord to the seven congregations reported in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Of course, all those who consider themselves to be the exclusive people of God because of belonging to a certain organisation can not even consider that these advices are addressed to Christians throughout the world beyond religious affiliation. On the contrary, they can not even consider that others, outside their own circle, can be defined as Christians. This would go against the whole apparatus of authority and would question the legitimacy of this organisation.
Understanding the difficulties that our conditioning creates, this blog has made some effort to try to explain the difference between Truth and religious organisation because it is clear that many confuse the two things (see the box at the bottom of this page entitled
“Who owns the truth?”).
Truth is the Word of God, only the Word of God, and every "organisation" can be identified with the Truth to the extent that it adheres to It (John 17:17) Given the fact that, however, that pure worship is not restored yet, one can at most approach the Truth without thereby fully grasping its scope (Ephesians 3:14-18) This is exactly the situation we see by reading the account of the seven congregations.
On the other hand, if we wanted to load these warnings upon one organisation (just to exclude all others), we should conclude that we have problems with spiritualism, sexual immorality, simony, personality worship, idolatry etc. Now, even with honest self-criticism, it is difficult to attribute all these problems to a single religious organisation (especially if we claim to be in the real) and moreover, when the Lord says to those of Pergamum
"repent. If you do not, I am coming to you quickly, and I will war against them with the long sword of my mouth”
he refers to an isolated group of the same organisation (which was praised shortly beforehand for having
“kept the Word”)
or more easily he refers to another group of believers whose false teachings have influenced their beliefs and practices? (Revelation 2:8-17) Let us take the time to reread these warnings and reflect on them.
This far it would seem logical but the problem remains of understanding whether individuals belonging to religious organisations clearly managed by wolves can be identified as virgins. They may perhaps be considered "sheep" … but "virgins"? To try and answer this question, we must first realise that the seven congregations are not all on the same level from the Lord's point of view.
An error in which one could easily fall is that, since true worship has not yet been restored, "one religion is as good as another". This is not the case at all; in fact, the Lord pours only praises for example to the congregation of Philadelphia and exclusively reproaches to the congregation of Laodicea. In general, each of them has something to reproach and some positive aspects. This simply emphasises that even the believer in the worst conditions or worst organisation (ie in the midst of a group of false Christians who teach falsehoods and behave badly) can repent, renew his love for God, strengthen the things that were about to die and come out victorious in the battle to do what is right.
Would it be wise to go to the Laodicean congregation by abandoning what we have gained in the light of the Scriptures? A Christian sensitive to the Word of God will not turn back, choosing a congregation that offends God and where it will be most difficult for him to do His Will, but will do everything possible to "win". – see 1 Corinthians 15:33
It is obvious to conclude that many members of these congregations, certainly the majority, will not pass judgment unscathed because they will not be willing to make the necessary changes and above all will not be able to resist the deceptions of the false prophet. However, at least some of those who, even in good faith, have belonged to any religious organisation can be considered virgins?
To state, as claimed by the author, that the 144,000 are considered virgins because they have not become contaminated with women, or religious organisations (Revelation 14:4; see Daniel 11:37) could contradict what we have just said. If God's flock is really scattered in various congregations (which are actually groups of believers, not religions, but still evidently organised by someone) how can they be part of a religion and be "virgins" at the same time? Let's see if in the Lord's words we can find a balance between the two positions.
To the congregation of Sardis or even to Thyatira the Lord says that they have
“the name that they were alive”
but they were died because their works were not performed before God and therefore they would have to repent otherwise
"he would come as a thief"
to their defeat and destruction. So Sardis and Thyatira are not very praiseworthy congregations. However He says that there were some people who did not defile their garments. What is the meaning of this expression and how could it be possible to be part of such a congregation remaining uncontaminated?
Well, they did not have that teaching, that is, they did not get involved in certain practices or they did not let themselves be enthralled by the rampant laxity. The white color means purity, the absence of sin, and this certainly includes the efforts they have made, within the limits of their knowledge, in order to maintain a pure conscience before the Lord. Even assuming a very small number, the fact remains that some will have managed not to defile their garments in the midst of really difficult congregations. It would therefore seem that it is not the belonging in itself to an organisation that makes us contaminated but the extent to which we are entangled in certain practices. This, at least, is what we can understand in the light of current knowledge.
Of the same sealed ones described in the book of Ezekiel it is said that
“they are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in Jerusalem”,
not that they themselves were not part of Jerusalem or that they were not of the Jewish religion (religion that had been greatly diverted from the original teaching) (Ezekiel 9:4). So this is evidently a matter of personal involvement and heart condition.
Regardless of the organisation we belong to, how much are we entangled in unscriptural or offensive practices from God's point of view, which would certainly defile our garments?
It is clear that some sincere and sensitive Christians will have to give up their religious organisation in order to succeed in doing the will of God, but even in the "better congregation", care must be taken not to make it an object of worship because it too will have something to be ashamed of. This may sound like a difficult statement, but in the end it can be summed up in a few words: everyone, individually, will be responsible before God – Romans 14:10
If we really love God, we will do all we can to adapt our beliefs and practices to His Word until true worship is restored and it will be clear again "who serves God and who do not serve him" because at that point it will be clear which religious organisation is the only approved by God. – Malachi 3:17, 18; Revelation 12:1, 13, 14
If the ten virgins, therefore, represent the sincere Christians scattered in various congregations, we see how our understanding changes also in reference to the previous article.
We note that the foolish virgins are still virgins. They are not foolish because they lose their virginity, as surely happens for all those who have become dirty with various anti-scriptural practices described in Revelation, but because they do not bring the oil with them at a crucial moment.
What is oil? In the Bible, oil is related to abundance, pleasure, loving discipline, something the wise appreciates and foolish despises. In particular, oil is associated with recognising its value and who recognises its value nourishes its desire. The foolish virgins are not such because they are "asleep" (because they have all fallen asleep) but because they have no more oil. Perhaps they have lost their desire to truly understand the Word of God and they do not believe (or no longer believe) that God will intervene on the affairs of this world (Zephaniah 1:12) Perhaps they have read it and studied it in the past but years later, seeing that what they believed did not come true, they no longer feel pleasure in it. They no longer consider this oil a healing balm.
Obviously the oil has nothing to do with the anointing of the Holy Spirit because we know that we are not the ones to decide whether to receive this unction or not and in addition the episode concerns the arrival of the Bridegroom, when the true adoration is restored. The study allows us to understand that there are no "anointed" before the restoration of true worship. So while the lamp clearly identifies the Word of God (Psalm 119:105), the oil, or the element that would illuminate this lamp, represents our deep and careful study and also the desire to understand it (Proverbs 2:1- 5). This also explains in a very simple way that all those who profess themselves Christians will receive a judgment: everyone has this lamp available. – see John 3:19
Now we notice that all the virgins fall asleep. They
went out to meet the bridegroom,
so we can say that they have done this with sincerity and with the right means: the Word of God.
Initially the lamp is on for everyone: they all study it (we always speak of sincere Christians spread all over the world and in various organisations, the wolves have nothing to do with this parable) and they really want, by all means, attend the arrival of the Bridegroom. Time passes and it goes a long way ... in fact it is almost 2000 years that the bridegroom "delays". In this period of time, perhaps even discouraged by all the discordant theories that revolve around the arrival of this bridegroom, they fall asleep. The Lord does not reproach them, perhaps implicitly recognising this human weakness. – see Matthew 26:40, 41; Hebrews 12:1
However, not all of them have oil in reserve. As we said at some point "perhaps they have lost (or exhausted) their desire to truly understand the Word of God and do not believe (or no longer believe) that God will intervene on the affairs of this world". Notice that we are always talking about virgins, therefore sheep: the wolves have obviously never believed and for them the arrival of the Bridegroom would not be a cause for joy.
So on the one hand they kept on keeping themselves virgins, that is, they never got stuck in certain disapproved practices, but at the same time they lost the most important thing: faith in the Word of God (Hebrews 3:12-15). In fact the virgins left without oil are not called "wicked" but "foolish", because in the end all their efforts will have been useless. – 1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:17
How will this happen? From what we have learned the 144,000 will soon be committed to restoring true worship through their preaching work. How will the various religious organisations react? Well, it is to be expected that the wolves will not willingly accept the loss of their authority and so it is very likely that they will be in the front line to stir up hatred against these people (see Matthew 24:9, 10). That will also be the moment when everyone will show what they are made of and what things will be most dear to him. Many will stumble and hate each other ... and now we understand more fully why "the stumbling" is related to the preaching work. Their reaction to the preaching of the good news will unmask them.
However, if we have said that sheep must be located in various organisations, they will not behave like wolves, is not it? Perhaps they will not be among those who hate these preachers ... but will they recognise them? Will they be able to understand that they are the ones chosen by Jehovah to restore true worship or will they exchange them for another religion, one among many, maybe a little strange? These preachers are evidently those who will shout "Here is the bridegroom! Go out to meet him”, encouraging anyone to examine their lamp to see “whether these things are so”. – Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 13:5
Can we say that while the wolves voluntarily disobey the invitation to submit to Christ, (and soon they will be standardised by the false prophet) all the others will listen willingly to this preaching by recognising the Lord's arrival? No, because a part of these virgins will show all their foolishness having exhausted all confidence in the saving power of the Bible, seeing no need to study it. Not recognising this event (the preaching of the chosen ones, the firstfruits of God) they will not be able to recognise the arrival of the Bridegroom. When the succession of events will show who is the true people of God and they will understand that they have made a mistake and will try to be accepted by the Bridegroom, by then the door will be closed. The Lord will tell them
“I tell you the truth, I do not know you”.
Perhaps these women will have lost their virginity by going with the false prophet who, as we have seen, will deceive the entire inhabited earth by pretending to be God. This is very likely because, having stopped studying the Bible, that could have protected and enlightened them, they will not have the proper armour to survive (Ephesians 5:11-20). However, even if this does not happen, not being vigilant will forever compromise the possibility of being introduced to the marriage feast. – Matthew 25:13
In conclusion therefore…
This parable will be incomprehensible and full of ambiguity for all self-referential religions (ie all), that is, all those who have proclaimed themselves "the people of God". For these, the foolish virgins can not be others than "false Christians”, preferably present in other organisations. Understanding instead that in our days there is no organisation of God on earth, it is easy to conclude that virgins are isolated Christians, scattered or imprisoned in various organisations, that really strive (or have strained in the past) to know God and that in a certain way they remained virgins while awaiting the arrival of the Bridegroom.
Even among these, who have nothing to do with the man of illegality, many will not just be asleep, but will not be able to recognise him either because they will not be vigilant, having lost faith and trust in the Word of God to their own detriment. This will occur during the preaching of those who will have the task of restoring true worship.
Therefore we must not confuse the man of illegality, that is, those who propose teachings contrary to the Word of God within these organisations, so many of those who have the responsibility of teaching, with individual believers, what condition of heart can be very different from individual to individual. The flock of God is present, even if divided and under the authority of oppressive wolves, and so it will be until the time of the end, in all these organisations. A part of this flock of God will have lost faith and will not be found vigilant upon the arrival of the Lord. – Luke 18:8
Who owns the Truth?
“Immediately by night the brothers sent both Paul and Silas to Beroea. On arriving, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” – Acts 17:10, 11
Are we continuing to receive the word with the greatest eagerness of mind? This question may seem obvious since all Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to study the Scriptures with constancy. As often happens among human beings, however, we may have started taking so many things for granted. Even the expressions we use usually suggest that sometimes we consider the "truth" something that we can own or not. Like an object.
For many brothers, needless to say, "the truth" is a group of people, a building or an organisation. So much so that if you try to challenge a doctrine, even if you do it with the word of God, you risk to be pointed out as rebellious if not even apostate. Also speaking of legitimate criticism (because, obviously, there are so many illegitimate criticism) many brothers will say "This is the truth!". Perhaps all of us, when we started studying the Bible, felt a little like the Beroeans seeing how our curiosity pushed us to ask questions and look for answers in the Scriptures. Many of us were surprised to find that many of Christianity's doctrines were simply false. So we were Beroeans, at least for a while. Are we still like we used to be, or maybe, after a while, we got used to take everything at face value, having eliminated every critical spirit, every question, every reflection, every doubt? Is it possible that the fear of being labeled as "rebels" has taken over our curiosity? Is it possible that we, while we boasted of being "Beroeans", have become harder than others?
In the history of Israel we have many examples of people from outside (ie non-Israelites) who have proved to be more humble and more receptive than many people belonging to the people of God. And this is precisely the problem. We often and willingly think that truth is something that we possess. Once you have it, you have it. The scribes and the Pharisees prided themselves on having the Temple and their father Abraham. – See Matthew 3:8, 9
There is so much to be said, of course, without concealing limits and errors, but the point that we want to emphasise is that the "truth" is the Word of God. – John 17:17
Let us read again this sentence:
the truth is the Word of God.
This means that it is not and can not be an organisation or a group of people. An organisation can be called "the truth" insofar as it adheres to the Word of God. It is not blasphemous to assert that the Society (Watchtower) has adhered to the Word of God to a greater extent and sometimes to a lesser extent. When we focused on 1975, for example (we could make other examples), since it is now obvious that it was not the will of God, this society, blessed in the past because of its obedience, did not adhere, at least to a certain extent, to the Word of God.
Or not? Or do we want to say that "it was God who tested the faithful"? This would be a striking example of how we can consider the truth something that we possess.
If we truly understand that this is the Word of God, it should not happen, when we find ourselves in front of a clear Bible teaching (or less clear, or that deserves to be examined deeply), that we simply say: let us see what the Society says; or that we adapt a phrase of the Lord, or some other verse, to what we think we know. Or, in order to make our understanding stick to the verse, to look for each meaning, each ambiguous phrase or each comment that would confirm our thought (just take a quick tour of everything that has been said about the "generation" in order to confirm a preconceived idea that we continue to drag behind us today). The opposite should be the norm. It is our duty to do research in the Bible, as long as the Bible was written for each one of us. – Proverbs 2:1-6
If we should discover a new teaching, perhaps even something that would go against the official teaching, what would happen?
Happy are we if Jehovah has allowed us to understand His Word to a greater extent!
But how can He allow us to understand His Word if we already have all the answers? If we never question ourselves? (Matthew 11:25, 26) It is not enough to do thousands of researches if the publications we are referring to only emphasise
always the same understanding.
We need a reliable and truly neutral source. The only truly reliable source is the Bible. – 2 Timothy 3:16, 17
So, it's not a play on words: only the Bible can explain the Bible.
For some, not blindly obeying the directives and the doctrines of the Governing Body means lack of loyalty but
our total loyalty should be paid to the Word of God
and not to a human organisation, however meritorious and well-meaning it is.
Does anyone really think that the Almighty God needs us or our organisation? How difficult would it be for God to replace us with another organisation tomorrow? – See Luke 19:40
If we succeed in taking away from our mind that the "truth" is something we possess, let us continue to study the Bible, get back into question and ask for help from the One who can give us true knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5) Let us prove that we are still Beroeans with facts and not just words.