What is the nature of an upcoming wedding? Surely, it is a bridegroom who eagerly anticipates his wedding night and a bride who looks forward to a loving relationship with her betrothed. Why then, when we consider the marriage of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, with the love of His life—the Church—that we don’t apply the same standards to the bride?
We know that Jesus wants to be with us. There’s no question about that. How do we know that? By the evidence of His love. By the fact that He died for us. That He took all our sins upon Himself to atone for us—actually sacrificed Himself in our place—so that we might be saved in order that we might be able to come to Him. He proved His love by His actions, not just by words. Doesn’t Jesus say, “You will know them by their fruits?” (Matthew 7:16). The proof is in the fruit of Jesus’ deeds.
So, if the church is the bride and one purpose of the Rapture is to unite the Bridegroom with the bride, shouldn’t she be as excited to be with Him as He is to be with her? The question of the day is: Is she?
I’ve been dwelling on this issue for several posts now, and it doesn’t want to go away. That could be an indication of perseveration (Dictionary.com: the pathological, persistent repetition of a word, gesture, or act, often associated with brain damage or schizophrenia), or it could mean the Holy Spirit has stirred this within me as a warning to the church. Take your pick. Despite either definition, I have no grandiose fantasies that many people will see this article. This blog has very limited reach. But perhaps there will be one or two who might need to read it and to whom God wants to speak.
Let’s review the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25:1-13:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 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.’ 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. 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.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The virgins were all set to marry the bridegroom. The day of his return was unknown per Jewish custom. He could appear at any moment from having been busy preparing their future home, and they had to be ready. The father set the day of the bridegroom’s return for his bride—only he knew the day and hour. When the bridegroom came near the bride’s home, a trumpet sounded and an announcement was made that the time for their wedding was at hand.
In the case of the parable, the bride’s readiness is directly correlated with her lamp and the oil she must have ready at all times. Here we see that the future brides who were eager for the bridegroom to come had prepared in advance. They had the necessary oil. They were looking forward to the upcoming marriage. But there were five virgins who hadn’t prepared. They weren’t watching and waiting with the expectation of the bridegroom’s return—again, that which could be at any moment. We don’t know why they weren’t ready. Too busy or too lazy or simply didn’t care. The fact is that at the appointed hour they had no oil.
The parable has a sad ending for those virgins who had apparently made the choice not to prepare. They knew the custom. The bridegroom had been away for some time, so they knew—whenever it might be—that he had to come at some point. But they chose, because of some aspect of their lives, not to watch and wait. They obviously didn’t really care. All one can deduce is that they didn’t want to be married very badly. Other things in their lives were more important. When the bridegroom came, he took those who wanted to be with him. The others, he left behind.
This parable draws a clear analogy to the Rapture of the Church. Jesus is coming back. It could be at any time. There are those who deny the Rapture altogether; many likewise deny the timing as pre-Tribulation, pre-Millennial, but there is overwhelming Scriptural evidence that it must happen, and in this manner at this time.
Who are the virgins eagerly awaiting Christ’s imminent return? Those who live for Him, whose hearts are for Him and not for the world. I can’t go so far as to say that those who love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, yet don’t believe in the pre-Trib Rapture won’t be Raptured; however, they will be surprised. The Rapture will take them unawares.
Unfortunately, there are others who no doubt are saved, but who have no interest in Jesus’ return. Their eyes are wholly on the world, whether through the cares of life or the don’t-cares who mock Bible prophecy. Regardless of the reason, these are the virgins who have no oil in their lamps. These Christians—absolutely saved by the blood of Jesus—are those who have decided to pursue worldly ideals like social justice, prosperity, environmental concerns, belief that the church must Christianize the world before Jesus can return, Holy Spirit experiences at the cost of a true encounter with Jesus, and a whole host of other beliefs that turn their eyes from where they should be focused. These believers are pursuing idols and the lusts of the flesh. If Jesus were to come while they’re busy in these endeavors, it would spoil everything. “Come Lord Jesus, just don’t come now!”
The more I think about this issue of Whom Will God Rapture, the more convinced I am that there is a need for these who don’t eagerly anticipate the Lord’s return to miss the Rapture and go into the Tribulation so that they can demonstrate by their actions where their heart is. They’re saved. No doubt about that. But if Jesus wants a willing bride, a bride refined as pure silver or gold, then these believers don’t fit that description.
Following hard after Jesus and wanting Him to come at any time is the hallmark of those who will be Raptured. Those desiring the things of the world are those who—like the five unprepared virgins—will be shut out. At that time, Jesus doesn’t even know them.
Paul gave a warning in Ephesian 4:17-24 about how we’re to live:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Is this the heart condition and action of every born-again believer? Sadly no. But because of the tribulation of the Tribulation, the hearts of these left behind will be purified, or they’ll decide that Jesus really isn’t worth it.
Should this cause some great concern? I hope so. I hope that it changes the desires of some who are currently living in the world and not for Jesus. But the sad truth of the matter is that most people in that condition won’t see an article like this. Their focus is elsewhere, and they wouldn’t even say, “Who me?” if confronted with it. On the other hand, if people read this and question if God will unite them with Jesus in the clouds when He returns to harpázō* His bride; then the likelihood is that He will do it because they are concerned. They want to be at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [harpázō] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
* [harpázō (Greek) – Strongs 726 – “properly, seize by force; snatch up, suddenly and decisively – like someone seizing bounty (spoil, a prize); to take by an open display of force (i.e. not covertly or secretly)”]
I know that’s where I want to be. How about you?