By George H. Warnock
And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always" (Ex. 27:20).
"Then shall the Kingdom of Heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps" (Matt. 25:13).
Is This for Us?
I am not going to get into the mechanics of the parable. Are these virgins part of the brides-maids, or part of the bride?--and so forth. It is enough that Jesus said it was for us. "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 25:14).
God forbid that our concept of walking with God should degenerate into a system of theology where we learn how to pigeon-hole truth that seems too devastating for our hearts to bear. Theology has a tendency to take the teeth out of truth, under the false notion that if it hurts, it can't be Christ-like. Truth is devastating to the natural man. And until we come to that place of total devastation as far as the natural man is concerned, we are not going to come into the beauty of true spiritual life.
We need to pay heed to this parable if we are truly desirous of being prepared with oil for the day of darkness that lies ahead. There is coming a day of test and of trial for God's people--in fact we might say it is at the door--a day in which God is going to expose the hearts, and reveal the nakedness and poverty of this Laodicean Church that professes to be rich and filled with oil, and to have need of nothing. It is a day when our confidence in experiences, in blessings, in gifts, in ministries, in charismatic structures, in charismatic methodology--is going to fail. The people of God generally find it easy enough these days to come up with solutions. They have access to a vast library of success books, and seminars, and workshops, that promise personal spiritual enlargement, as well as the enhancement of Church life and Church growth. The criterion seems to be: Does it work? If it works, and at least seems to perform the desires of our hearts--that seems to be all that matters. Whether or not it is God's Way, and will bring forth God's objective, doesn't seem to matter.
The Hour of Trial
The Lord has warned us that there is coming an hour of trial upon all the world "to try them that dwell upon the earth" (Rev. 3:10). There will be overcomers in that hour, and God has shown us the way to overcome in the day of famine, in the day of darkness and gloominess, in the day when He sends His fire into the earth. It is going to be a day when "the labour of the olive shall fail"--a day when there shall be "no fruit on the vine". And it is going to be a day of the unveiling of one's spiritual worth, or of his bankruptcy. O that God might help us to declare bankruptcy now, as He reveals to us the pile of debts that we have no way of paying. For if we declare bankruptcy now, we will be able to "buy gold tried in the fire" and "white raiment" to clothe ourselves, and "eyesalve to anoint our eyes" that we might see.
The wise and the foolish were all virgins. They all had lamps--they all took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. If they were the "brides-maids" you can be sure that the bride would require even greater diligence for her preparation, than would the brides-maids themselves. All their lamps were burning with oil; for at the midnight hour they did not arise and light their lamps--they rose up and "trimmed" them. They came to this place of waiting, and of sleeping, with lamps that were burning; but as they slept their lamps grew dim. The light from the lamps of the foolish appeared to be equally illuminating as the light from the lamps of the wise. But there was one difference, and this was only revealed in the midnight hour. The wise had brought along with them a supply of oil "in their vessels"--while the foolish were trusting that the lamp they had would keep burning, without any extra supply.
Is Oil in the Lamps Sufficient?
Are you trusting in the lamp you have, the structure you are sheltered under, the New Testament Church order you have found refuge in? Or is your confidence in a personal, abiding union with Christ Himself? Are you trusting in the fact that you have received of His Spirit, and have gifts of the Spirit, and have certain manifestations of blessing and power in your life? Or are you pursuing a life of total abiding union with the Lord?
The oil in your lamp will soon burn out. There is no blessing, no experience, no gift, no ministry, no Church structure, that will keep your lamp burning in the hour of trial. Having the right arrangement, the proper New Testament pattern, the right kind of structure or covering, the right order--these will not suffice. Having His gifts, His blessings, His ministries--these in themselves will not do. They have their purpose, a very needful purpose, and that is to bring us into this relationship we are talking about--to cause us to "grow up into Christ"--even unto "the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:18, 19; 4:13). But if this is not the vision and the hope, and if this is not the objective of our many gatherings together in His Name--sooner or later the lamp will run dry, and the light will grow dim and go out.
There is only one way that we can maintain the oil that will maintain the light that will maintain the vision of His appearing, and prepare us for that appearing--and that is by coming into union with Him who is the Source. It is not some new doctrine that you can take or leave. It is God's provision for His people in the hour of famine and of darkness. You must begin to walk in identification and union with Christ, in His Cross as well as in His life. Only in Him is there an unfailing supply. It is not something you automatically have when you receive of His Spirit and partake of His gifts and blessings. Rather these gifts and blessings are intended to help us along the Way as we seek to follow on to appropriate the death of the Cross and the resurrection life that these enabling gifts and ministries would lead us into.
There is a subtle teaching emanating from the Church in this hour that goes something like this: "Forget those far-out things--get back to basics, get the gifts of the Spirit and start working for God". The subtlety of it all lies in the fact that God has given precious gifts of His Spirit as the means and not as the end--Gifts of power to help and encourage and strengthen us in our many difficulties; and words of wisdom and knowledge and faith to lead us into abiding fulness with Him. But as man has always been prone to do, we accept the part for the whole, the means for the ultimate end. We accept the scaffolding for the building. We glory in the beautiful flowers of the tree, and care less if there be any apples. We admire the living green of the wheat fields and do not see the value of the ripening grain, and the threshing, and the blowing away of the chaff.
Union with the Source
We have the answer to our need in the vision that God gave to Zechariah, at the time of the building of the second temple:
"And (He) said unto me, What seest thou? and I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof (Zech. 4:2, 3).
Not just a candlestick, but a candlestick that was in union with an exhaustless supply of oil--oil from the olive-trees--oil from the fountain-head and source. God showed Zechariah that the "olive trees" were the sons of oil, the anointed ones. It was Christ--but it was Christ in union with His many brethren. They were the sons of oil, sons of the anointing--and through them there was an exhaustless supply of oil for the lamp of God.
God has endowed His true servants with spiritual gifts and ministries; but it does not stop there. They are a people who, because of His enabling power, have experienced His Way, and are walking in His Way, and are pointing others to His Way. There is an exhaustless supply of oil--but you must buy it for yourself. You cannot borrow it from your leader, from your pastor, from your teachers. And when you find it (or rather Him), you cannot sell it to any one else. You cannot delegate it to others. You cannot give it away, much as you would like to share it with others. One must walk with Him and learn His ways--hearing His voice and doing His will. Association with God's anointed ones is not sufficient. As they minister out from the heart of God they will seek to bring you into union with Christ for they know that you will not be prepared to go forth in this midnight hour to meet the Bridegroom, except as you come into vital union with Him who is the Source. You have to buy this oil for yourself, if you are going to have it; and you are going to have to buy it now. At the midnight hour, which is very close at hand, you will not have the opportunity to buy it.
What is the Price?
What is the price? That would be difficult for me to say explicitly. But the Lord will show you, if you truly want to know and pay the price. The price-tag is not according to the value of the oil, for this unfailing supply is really without money and without price. But there is a price-tag, and you will have to discover that for yourself. It could be some paltry earthly thing that has blinded your eyes to the true riches. But it could also be some degree of spiritual attainment that you are loathe to relinquish in order to have His fulness. It could even be a ministry, great or small--full of truth, full of oil, full of blessing--but which will go out in the darkness of the night if you do not surrender it all to Him for the prize of the high calling of knowing Him. The price-tag merely reveals the smallness of your own heart, and the struggle one has to go through in order that he might receive the riches of His grace.
It could be Anything--but it has to be Everything. For it is only in forsaking all that we have that we might receive all of Him. These blessings and gifts and enablements are only manifestations of Him. They are good, but they are only intended to lead us unto Him, unto His fulness, unto the Fountain-head and Source. If they fail to do this, they will soon wither and die.
"Search us, O Lord, and know us. Try us and know our thoughts. Continue to send forth your Word to our hearts that your people might hastily sell all they have and buy this precious, exhaustless supply of oil. For truly the midnight hour is nigh at hand; and very shortly we must go forth to meet the Bridegroom under the illumination and anointing and guidance of Your Spirit".
When Jesus came the first time it was those who had an abundance of scriptural knowledge of His coming who missed Him--whereas the humble and the lowly whose hearts were prepared saw Him. Can we not learn from what happened at His first coming, as we anticipate His second coming?
It is evident that there are going to be some very dramatic, sudden outward manifestations at His second coming. But it is also evident that there will be aspects of His appearing that only those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, will recognize. Paul saw the Lord in such a brightness of His glory that it blinded his eyes. But his companions who travelled with him saw nothing, and only heard meaningless sounds. And yet it all happened at the same moment, and in the same place. I know this was not at Christ's first coming. Neither was it at His second coming. But Paul saw Him! It was an appearing of the Lord that was just as real as His appearing to Peter and James and John and the other disciples (1 Cor 15:5-8). The five virgins saw Him, and walked into His presence--while the foolish virgins saw Him not. He comes as "a thief in the night"--to those who are not walking in the light--but in the brightness of His glory to those who are (1 Thess. 5:2, 4).
These things may be very disturbing to the theological mind, because theology must be able to so arrange the scriptures that they can precisely set forth the manner of the coming of the Lord. But God does not reveal Himself in this way. In all of the parables, in all of the exhortations in the epistles, there is both encouragement and warning to God's people that He may appear any moment, and that those who see Him when He appears are those who are looking for Him, waiting for Him, and expecting Him (See Matt. 24:44; 25:10; 1 Thess. 1:10; Tit. 2:13; Heb 9:28; 1 Jn. 3:2, 3).
But it does not mean that everything pertaining to the second coming must take place in that single moment of time. It took 33 years for the prophecies that related to His first coming to be fulfilled; and we have no way of knowing how many years it may take for all aspects of His second coming to be fully revealed. But let us remember that those who earnestly looked for Him, and whose hearts were prepared, saw Him early in the day of His appearing, simply because they were walking with God, and had eyes to see what the world could not see. We cannot miss Him if we are constantly looking for Him. And God forbid that any of us should be found in the company of those who are going about lecturing from beautiful charts of the second coming, while the Bride of Christ is feasting with her Lord at "the marriage supper of the Lamb".