In the parable of the ten virgins we saw that the professing church has been asleep for centuries. As noted, this is a failure of corporate responsibility – all ten, both foolish and wise, slept and slumbered together. The task defining this responsibility was clear – remain awake and alert, looking for the return of the bridegroom. They did not do this and the church world suffered the results.
Failure in responsibility always has its consequences, and none of these are ever good. Early in its history the professing church lost sight of the doctrine of His return for the church, and with this, lost the earnest expectation and constant vigilance in it. The sleeping allows corruption and evil to enter in, and this grows and ripens to the end. The principles of this age are different from those of the dispensation to come, so we cannot be looking for God to separate things out. The tares are mixed in with the wheat, and the corruption and evil grows and prospers (Matt. 13:28-29).
The Principle of Evil
“But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
Evil and corruption love to grow, spread, and ripen. It is certainly what weeds (tares) are designed to do all on their own. This goes on to a certain end, as you can see with the Amorites above in Canaan land – until their iniquity was complete.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”
“Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.”
The hypocrisy and corruption in Israel among its religious leaders at the time of Jesus’ first appearing was the worst in its history up to that point. The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, but Jesus warns His disciples and the people of all their deceptions (Matt. 23:1-3). They were to properly obey what they say regarding the law as the leaders of the nation, but they were not to follow their examples. This is another example of how evil grows and ripens to judgment.
This Present Evil World
The outward world is viewed by God in this way – it is ripening in evil to a certain end. The end will come when the Son of Man returns to this earth in judgment of the world (Rev. 1:7, Matt. 24:30). A few years before Christ’s return, Satan is cast out of the heavens down to the earth. What this results in is rejoicing in the heavens, but woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you, having great wrath (Rev. 12:12). The last few years of the world before its judgment will be the full display of evil, as never seen before on the face of the earth (Matt. 24:21). The character of the world at this time is one of apostasy, blasphemy, and outright rebellion against God (the character of the dragon cast down to the earth). Certainly in principle, evil in the world is fully ripening to the end.
The Principle of Evil in Professing Christianity
Through failure in corporate responsibility evil also grows, spreads, and ripens in the professing church. Satan is presently in the heavens (above the earth), and he is there for the corruption of the church world. In the heavens he acts like a serpent. The corruption of professing Christianity is by subtlety, worldliness, and false teaching (lies). God will not allow the full display of corruption in the church world at this time, but restrains its greater expression (II Thess. 2:6-8). But the time is coming when the restraints will be removed. Here is an outline of the progression and history of evil in the church world:
1. The mystery of lawlessness starts in the early church in Paul’s time (II Thess. 2:7). With the end of the apostolic church begins the steady decline and decay of the professing church. Ephesus will not repent and return to its first position (Rev. 2:5). Christ threatens the removal of its candlestick.
2. For centuries the church world has failed in responsibility. Early on ‘wicked servants’ established the false teachings of church authority through succession and by these teachings controlled and abused other servants of the Master. The professing church has long been asleep, especially to the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord for His own. In other areas of responsibility we see the professing church building on the earth with wood, hay, and stubble (I Cor. 3:9-13). Also the leaven of false teaching penetrates and saturates the whole lump to the end (Matt. 13:33). The church world does not endure sound doctrine (II Tim. 4:3-4). It has been this way for a long time. These are all areas of corporate failure in its history.
3. All along God has restricted the full display of evil in the church world. However this will not go on much longer. When Christ comes back to remove His body from this world (I Thess. 4:13-18), the restrictions will have ended (II Thess. 2:7). The tares of professing Christianity, bundled together and left behind, will experience a great apostasy from any pretense of Christian truth (II Thess. 2:3, I Tim. 4:1). Laodicea is spewed out of Christ’s mouth (Rev. 3:15-17) and the candlestick is finally removed after much patience shown by the Lord.
4. Jezebel in Thyatira is a special failure of responsibility of the professing church as it progresses through time (Rev. 2:20-23). Mystery, Babylon the Great, is professing Christianity as it rides the hidden Roman beast. Her influence, power, and wealth will be destroyed by ten formerly Christianized kingdoms and increasingly apostate kings (Rev. 17). This effectively ends the history of professing Christianity before the judgment of the world. Judgment begins at the house of God, and in the case here, the destruction of all in professing Christianity that pretends to be the false bride of Christ that is left on the earth (I Pet. 4:17).
5. The Roman beast rises out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 17:8). It now takes on the character and behavior of a beast again – having an independent will from God, apostate, blasphemous, and rebellious. It is no longer under the pseudo-Christian influence of the Babylonian whore (Rev. 17:3-6). The man of sin is revealed, who is the son of perdition (II Thess. 2:3). The ten kings give their power to the last Caesar (Rev. 17:10-13), the head of the revived Roman beast. Much of this last point is written to show how the world becomes anti-Christian and openly apostate after God’s judgment of what is left of the church world (Rev. 17:15-17).
The Wicked Servant says in his heart – ‘my master delays his coming’
The ten virgins, all sleeping and slumbering, depict the failure in responsibility related to the doctrine of the rapture of the church – the removal of the body of Christ from this world to go into the presence of the Father. The moral implications of this failure can be seen in the comparison of two portions of Scripture.
“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.”
“But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards…”
The good servants are waiting and anticipating the return of the Lord. Their waists are girded and their lamps fully burning. They are always looking and ready. But the evil servant is not waiting and anticipating the Lord’s return. He says, “My master delays his coming.” As a direct result of this thinking and attitude, he enters into two areas of immorality.
n He begins to abuse his fellow servants. This, I would think, symbolizes types of ecclesiastical abuse within the church world. An example of this might be the tenant of faith in Roman Catholicism by which authority and infallibility is passed down through apostolic succession. This is a belief that is completely unscriptural and is the creation of the human mind, serving as a means of control and abuse, all in the name of Christ. It is part and parcel of man exalting himself by Arminian doctrine and the Judaizing of the Christian faith. There are many other forms of this type of abuse.
n He eats and drinks with the drunkards. This is symbolic of the professing church joining with the world. The body of Christ is not of the world. But the greater corporate body of profession solicits the world and joins in an unholy relationship with it. In the prophetic language this is known as fornication and sexual immorality. The joining of the professing church with the world is easily seen in many passages of Scripture.
1. With Pergamos, the third church, the professing church was drawing closer to the world. Christ says, “I know…where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” They were allowing the worldly doctrines of Balaam to enter in, producing idolatry and sexual immorality (worldliness – Rev. 2:13-15).
2. With Thyatira, the fourth church (the remarkable form of Romanism), the professing church welcomes Jezebel, the false prophetess, to dwell in it and birth her own children in her evil abominations. She teaches and beguiles, leading into sexual immorality (worldliness) and idolatry. She knows and teaches the doctrines of the depths of Satan, all in the name of Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:20-24).
3. Mystery, Babylon the Great, is the professing church world (Rev. 17:6). The vision in this chapter is her history, having Christianized the Roman Empire. During her history this woman’s influence has been over the many waters (the Gentile masses well beyond the Roman earth). This influence is by the kings of the earth committing fornication with her and the inhabitants of the earth being made drunk with the wine of her fornication (Rev. 17:1-2). The inhabitants are intoxicated, losing all individual spiritual insight and enlightenment. In John’s vision, when she is seen sitting on the beast, she is adorned with earthly glory and wealth as the false bride of Christ. The cup she holds is full of abominations (idolatries) and the filthiness of her fornication (Rev. 17:3-4). Her unholy relationship with the world is obvious.
1 John 2:15-16
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.”
The testimony of the history of the professing church world is that it falls in love with the world and the things in the world. And it is saying to itself, “My master delays His return.” So then there was allowance for all kinds of corruption and worldliness. There is no perceived need for readiness, no need to be alert. There is time to sleep, and time to party. The pressure is off, we can do as we please, and there is no danger. It is pretension, it is worldliness, and it is human arrogance. It is Laodicea saying, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” Yet it is wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). These are five descriptive words indicative of the abject spiritual state of the church world in its end.
The Moral Consequences of the True Church’s Proper Hope
1 John 3:1-3
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (2) Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (3) And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Those who have and possess true Christian hopes will purify themselves by these hopes. They are all unseen and in glory, and not of this world or life on earth. Our true hopes serve to set our affections and desires apart from this world, and apart from worldly cares. The character of this doctrine is not of the world, and serves to disentangle and detach us from the things of the world, and in truth, the things of the earth (Phil. 3:18-21). The holding of this doctrine in constant expectation is at once both practical and powerful in accomplishing this task.
Having the lamps trimmed and burning, waiting for the bridegroom, was the responsibility of professing Christianity the entire time of its existence. It is true the Lord tarried and all the virgins in the parable slept (Matt. 25:5). This is indicative of the moral state of the kingdom of heaven – all had forgotten the bridegroom’s coming. In the history of the church world even good men failed to teach this truth and to be enlivened by this expectation. What does the slumbering and sleeping say about the professing church’s love for the Savior? When all had forgotten Him, was it not that they were getting comfortable in the world? Their lamps weren’t trimmed. They weren’t ready to receive Him. There was little light at all. Their love and affection for Christ had grown cold.
The Affections of the Believer’s Heart
The proper moral state of the believer depends on our constant expectation of this hope: waist girded, lamps burning, and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master to return. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34) The true character of the professing Christian is established by the object that holds his heart’s affections and attention. This object must be the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer’s motive for all his conduct must have its basis in his affections for Him and an expectation of Him. There is nothing that truly separates the Christian from this world than waiting for Him. This expectation will search the heart so that nothing will be hidden there that is inappropriate to our being in the Lord’s physical presence. What are the many things we cling to down here in this world? Is there anything in your life, in your affections, which would make you wish the Lord’s coming be delayed?
“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.”
This will not be true on the earth, but only in the heavens and with Him in the Father’s house. As His faithful brethren – watching and expecting His return – out of His love and affection for them He will serve them in glory. This speaks of the believer’s intimate relationship, fellowship, and communion with Him then, unhindered by sin. The watching and waiting for Him develops and intensifies the Christian’s fellowship and communion with Him now, where it is always hindered by sin.
The Believer’s Responsibility in Service
The question may be lingering, “what about our service for Him now?” Service always speaks to different things such as recompense and reward. It is not the development of fellowship and communion with Him. It is not that we do not have responsibility in this area.
“And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.”
After the above verses emphasizing the need for watching and waiting by His servants (Luke 12:32-38), Jesus addresses the service. He says, “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” The servant who is faithful in his doing will be blessed of the Lord. But we can see that this involves the Lord’s inheritance we all share with Him, as well as our portion and place in His future government over it.
The idea of recompense and reward is often the opportunity for human thought, pride, and exaltation – a looking at what I can do, or I have done. It is a slippery slope if we do not exercise caution and Scriptural thoughts. The excellence of the power is of God, and not of us. This is only applicable when you are actually doing the will of God in the plan and counsels of God. That is why we are only earthen vessels (II Cor. 4:7). It is God in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). But the only things that count are those things which are His good pleasure. And when it comes to labors and payment we cannot be forcing the sovereign God away from the management of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 20:1-15). God’s principle of grace is that the last will be first, and the first last and that many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 20:16). God blesses according to Himself. It is not a certain amount of labor for a certain amount of reward, as if we are bargaining with God on a price (Matt. 20:10-12). Is it not right for God to do what He wishes with His own things? (Matt. 20:15). So often we forget these things and are not thankful to God for the position we are in.
Proper Christian Hopes govern the Believer’s behavior and service
The rapture is the beginning and entrance of the church into the glory. The Lord promised to come for us, so that we might be where He is – with the Father. It is the Father who has given us these hopes and bestowed upon us His love. We are called His children, His sons. Our hope is not realized yet, but we know that it is the Father’s desire that we be like Christ, conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29-30). Such glorious hope will change us even now. While we wait, day by day we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and are changed and transformed into this same image – from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18).
The doctrine of the rapture of the church was to be a substantive part of the believer’s thinking. The moral state of the saints depends on keeping His coming in the affections of their hearts and constantly before their eyes. In its history, the church has declined in spirituality exactly in proportion to the loss of this doctrine, and to the loss of its constant expectancy. As a result, the church has become weak and worldly, with false hopes and unsound teaching.
The Constant Expectancy is the Wisdom of God
Believers who expect the imminent return of the Lord for them simply will live different lives. If you truly expect the Lord to return tomorrow, how will you live this day? If His return for us were a present thought on our hearts and minds, how many things would disappear from around us? How many cares and desires that burden us and distract us from Him would we cast off? With this thought our loins would be girded and our lamps would be burning. And it is the wisdom of God that He intended this truth to be held by all His children, regardless of where on the timeline of the history of the church they fell. The Spirit taught the early church to expect the Lord’s return. Paul taught that when the Lord does return, that God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (I Thess. 4:13-14). And again, the Thessalonians were saved in this very hope:
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
“For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, (10) and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
They were saved for what purpose? Surely to serve the living and true God, but also to wait for His Son from heaven. It was part of what the Thessalonians were converted to – the waiting. “…but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope…” (Rom. 8:23-24)
The Believer before the Judgment Seat of Christ
2 Corinthians 4:14
“…knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.”
1 John 4:17-18
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
We go to the judgment seat of Christ after we are raised up and glorified. It is after the rapture of the church. It will be after the believer is conformed into the image of His Son. We go to the judgment seat of Christ after having been conformed into the image of the Judge we stand before. In this the believer is to have confidence and boldness without tormenting fear – in Christ, as He is, so are we. This is a blessed thought for the believer. It is one without fear or condemnation. This is the blessed hope of the church.
Chapter 8: Endnotes
 In principle, evil is always consistent in this way – it grows, spreads, and ripens. We easily see this in the description of the four Gentile world monarchies as beasts (Dan. 7). The fourth beast (the Roman Empire) is described as different from the three preceding it.It is one that is dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It goes forth devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue. The final form of this fourth beast is worse than its original, as seen as ascending out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 17:8). Its last form is given the dragon’s power and his throne (Rev. 13:2). It is an amalgamation of the evil character of the three beasts that preceded it (Rev. 13:2).
 Allow me to share an example that may bring some clarity to this principle of evil and the statement by Paul that the mystery of lawlessness was already at work in his day. I am a licensed private pilot with an instrument rating. All pilots know that when traveling to a given destination the attempt is made to fly at a set altitude and on a course that is a relatively straight line. Modern instrumentation, GPS satellite navigation, and integrated autopilots make this task quite different today than what flying was in the past. In the past you had to hand fly the plane, constantly monitoring instruments that were inherently less dependable and accurate, while checking your own skills in maintaining proper altitude and course.
All pilots know that an error at the beginning or an instrument malfunction, even a small less significant one, will only be compounded through the course of the flight, ending in a far greater inaccuracy and problem at the end. They know that this may be devastatingly true with errors in either altitude or direction. In the professing church the mystery (hidden and subtle) of lawlessness was taking root at the beginning. Evil has been growing, spreading, and increasing over the course of time in the corporate body. The evil that had its small beginnings will only be compounded many times by the end.
 It is the divine wisdom of God that this doctrine of the rapture of the church be held by all believers. It leads them to having a constant expectation of the event itself. This anticipation then leads the believer to greater purity and holiness (I John 3:1-3). The wisdom of God is that this is true for all believers, regardless of being in the first century or the twenty-first century. It is the same teaching held, and the same earnest expectation properly generated by it. The same virgins that fell asleep are the same ones aroused at the end. They are the same servants given talents when the master originally departs who have to answer when He returns. The seven churches addressed in Rev. 2-3 were contemporary existing churches in the time of John. I can see along with many other believers that these seven are symbolic of the progressive history of the professing church on the earth. We may get this partially from hindsight. But it still remains that all seven were contemporary churches at the time, and could be viewed in that light by the first century church.
The Lord has delayed His coming, this is a reality. The parable of the virgins tells us directly that when the bridegroom delayed, they all slept. The question is, did the Lord want the early church to constantly expect His coming for them, or did He want them to say, “My master delays His coming.”? The evil servant does not deny that his master will eventually return, but he has lost the sense and present expectation of it. Not to be watching was the failure of the church world. The professing church was taught to watch, not to expect a delay. When the Lord says to the seven churches, “Behold, I come quickly,” why would it not be the Lord’s wisdom to have them believe such? It is always the present hope of the saints. It is wrapped in symbolism, but it is the divine wisdom of God. Naysayers accuse the first century church of making a big mistake. Rather it is the simple understanding of the counsel and wisdom of God taught by His Spirit to the spiritually minded believer. All believers are to constantly expect His coming for the church, regardless of what century they lived in. This is the mind of Christ.