Getting ready to hold my personal Bible study of the Book of Revelation. It’s a book I have never read in any great detail…maybe a verse or few here and there, yet I have never really dug into even a full chapter of it. Oddly enough, as I thought about this earlier today and did a quick search about the Book on the internet, one writer noted, “it is the first book that many new to the Bible want to study, while it is often neglected by mature Christians.” (Mark A. Copeland, Executable Outlines, 2013). If being a life-long Christian constitutes a ‘mature Christian’, well then, hello mirror. He goes onto say that many people believe it is too mysterious to understand…ah, yea, that might be me. (Thankfully, I reached out to my Pastor who is also providing some study guides/crib notes to assist me in this endeavor.)
The word “Revelation” comes from the Greek word “apokalupsis” meaning ‘an uncovering’ or ‘unveiling’. He goes onto state that part of the challenge to understanding this Book of the Bible is that it is written in a style known as ‘apocalyptic literature’. (Ugh, that in and of itself sounds challenging before you even get to the content.) He went onto point out a few other examples of this style of writing in the Bible, including the books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah, but more interestingly to me, pointed out that Matthew 24 contains elements of apocalyptic writing as well. Matthew is a book I have read often and understand somewhat better after some additional guidance and pointers from my pastors. So Matthew, chapter 24 is where I decided to start my new study in an attempt to prepare myself to uncover the messages contained in the Book of Revelation, written by the apostle John, approximately 90 years after Christ’s death.
Matthew 24 outlines the ‘signs of the end of age’ and goes on to point out that the ‘day and hour are unknown’ for when the Son will return. It reminds us to keep watch because He will return at an hour you do not expect Him. (Hmm, his return reminds me a lot of the illness that I was not expecting in December 2012.)
Following this chapter is the chapter my Bible captions “The Parable of the Ten Virgins”. This is the chapter and parable that spoke to me this morning. Parables were used frequently by Jesus, but I’ll admit that I was younger; I would really have to pay attention and think to understand the message.
The dictionary defines a parable as a noun:
a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral
a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or
In this particular parable, Jesus talks about ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet a bridegroom. Five were foolish, but five were wise. The foolish ones grabbed the lamps before heading out, but did not take oil. The wise ones took their lamps and bottles of oil as they headed out. At a point where all ten virgins went to light their lamps in the dark as the bridegroom was coming, the five foolish ones asked the wise ones for oil. The wise women would not share their oil, fearing that they would not have enough to keep their lamps burning and advised the foolish women to go out and buy their own. Unfortunately, the foolish women were out buying oil when the bridegroom arrived. The bible goes on to say, “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later, the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:10-13).
This parable hit me for a couple of reasons.
The main reasons: be vigilant, open and prepared. You do not know when something is about to happen in life. It happens and you have to be prepared to handle it.
I don’t know that one couldn’t see how I wasn’t ‘prepared’ physically for the challenge of leukemia. Not a curve ball I wanted, yet is it ironic that I was training for a half marathon for nearly 6 months before this disease struck? I don’t think so. I abhorred running in high school. I was a gymnast and cheerleader, but I detested running. You can go back and ask a former gym teacher who called my mother to complain that I only ‘walked the track’ for the long stretches instead of running it like I was supposed to. Yet, the doctors have told me that the training before I got sick definitely helped my physical recovery after the first round of chemo.
Being open and vigilant. I don’t know how you can’t be open to seeing that there is a higher and greater purpose. Human contact alone points to that in my book. I want to do good by and for others. I want everyone to experience unconditional love and acceptance. I keep my eyes open in every instance to find the good in something. I am vigilant about it. If you aren’t, I encourage you to try it…for 30 minutes if that’s all you think you can. I dare you to find something not amazing in that time. When you find that something amazing, open your heart and you will realize that there is a bigger reason why it is awesome…it was fearfully and wonderfully made. Not a coincidence, I tell you. Everything serves a bigger purpose and is created for a reason. That reason abides within us through the Holy Spirit.
And being mentally prepared for this challenge? I can easily see where God had a hand in my life each and every day, sneaking in at opportune times, to reinforce my faith and understanding of His plan in my life and the lives of my family. Sunday School experiences, discussions with friends, the Holy Spirit calling me to raise my hand at a meeting, the people He has put in my path that have led by example, my quest for more knowledge…so many stones that have led me on a path perhaps not taken by all, but one I hope to invite many to follow. It is a path of understanding, love and comfort. I do not know where the path leads exactly, nor should the stops be revealed to me at this time, yet the final destination is truly a place I want to be. I only hope that although I do not know when that time will come, I will be ready, with oil for my lamp so that it burns brightly, or, more accurately, a faith and love in my heart for our Maker that will shine before Him and his angels in the Heavens.
I want Him to know me. I want Him to continually search my soul, walk with me through my earthly life and guide me through the rough spots, even when my light shines dimly through the night. Through good works, faith and love all of us can burn our lamps brightly. Go ahead, shine your light for all to see and make it a great day…for you, for someone else and for your Maker.