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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Parables of the Second Coming

            I continued my studies about the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. It seems that He spent much of His last week teaching the people and His Apostles, and He taught a lot about His return to earth as the resurrected Savior. Matthew 25 discusses three parables that are applicable to His Second Coming: the parable of the ten virgins, the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats. All of them pertain to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

            The main message from the parable of the ten virgins is that we must prepare spiritually for the Second Coming. This parable is about ten virgins who were invited to a wedding. In Jewish tradition, the bridegroom and a few of his friends go to the bride’s home where the marriage ceremony takes place. After the ceremony the entire wedding party proceeds to the groom’s home for a wedding feast. As they travel between the two homes, invited guests join the procession and are expected to carry their own lamps or torches to light their way in the darkness of midnight.

            The bridegroom in the parable is detained, and the lamps of the ten virgins begin to go out. The five wise virgins brought extra oil and were able to refill their lamps, but the five foolish virgins did not. They wanted to borrow oil from the wise virgins, but the wise virgins did not have any extra oil to share. While the foolish virgins went to buy oil, the bridegroom came. The wise virgins went with him to his home, and the door was shut. The foolish virgins came later and pounded on the door, but they were not allowed inside.

            The bridegroom in the parable represents Jesus Christ. He comes at midnight, the darkest part of the night, and the bride represents the Church of Jesus Christ. The virgins represent the members of the Church of Jesus Christ according to then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelves Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came.”

            In this parable the oil for the lamps represents spiritual preparation. Members of the Lord’s Church are taught how to add “oil” to their lamps in order to be spiritually ready for the Bridegroom. The Lord revealed the following information to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.

For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived – verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.

And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance (Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-58; see also Doctrine and Covenants 63:54).

            President Spencer W. Kimball (1899-1985) gave a memorable explanation of this parable in his book title Faith Precedes the Miracle. He explains what the oil symbolizes and why the wise virgins could not share their oil.

The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. How can one share obedience to the principle of tithing; a mind at peace from righteous living; an accumulation of knowledge? How can one share faith or testimony? How can one share attitudes or chastity, or the experience of a mission? How can one share temple privileges? Each must obtain that kind of oil for himself….

In the parable, oil can be purchased at the market. In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living. Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures – each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity – these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 255-56).

            This parable shows the dangers presented by procrastination of our spiritual preparation. If we procrastinate too long, we will not have enough oil in our lamps and will be unprepared to join the wedding procession. We could eventually be locked out of the wedding.

            The main message for the parable of the talents is that God will hold us accountable for what we do with our spiritual gifts. He will reward us for our efforts in developing our gifts, or He may take them away and give them to someone else if we do not develop them. A talent in the Savior’s day was a unit of weight and a large amount of money. In our day the word also means spiritual gift, skill, or ability.

            In the parable the master gives five talents to one servant, two talents to a second servant, and one talent to a third servant. The servant with five talents and the servant with two talents each doubled the number of talents, but the third servant buried his talent. When the master returned from his journey, he praised the two who had doubled their talents, but he rejected the third servant and gave his one talent to the servant who now had ten. President James E. Faust (1920-2007) of the First Presidency taught that the Lord will hold each of us accountable for what we do with our gifts and talents.

Some of us are too content with what we may already be doing. We stand back in the “eat, drink, and be merry’ mode when opportunities for growth and development abound. We miss opportunities to build up the kingdom of God because we have the passive notion that someone else will take care of it. The Lord tells us that He will give more to those who are willing. They will be magnified in their efforts…. But to those who say, ‘We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have’ [2 Nephi 28:30].

The Lord entrusts all of His servants, including every priesthood holder, with spiritual talents…. While we are not all equal in experience, aptitude, and strength, we have different opportunities to employ these spiritual gifts, and we will all be accountable for the use of the gifts and opportunities given to us.” 

            This parable teaches the importance of not being lazy or fearful in our spiritual preparation. It also teaches us that we must use our gifts, talents, and abilities in helping other people to prepare themselves for the Second Coming. In other words, Heavenly Father did not send us to earth to party. He sent us away to school for a few years to gain the knowledge and experience that we need in order to become what He wants us to be.

            The main message of the parable of the sheep and the goats is to warn us. The Lord will judge us for we have done as well as for what we have become. The sheep represent those people who faithfully serve God and their neighbors. They will be on the right hand of God, while the people represented by the goats will be on the left hand of God.

            In the time of Christ sheep and goats grazed together during the day, but they were separated at night. This parable explains the separation of judgment that will occur at the time of the Savior’s Second Coming. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following.

At the final day the Savior will not ask about the nature of our callings. He will not inquire about our material possessions or fame. He will ask if we ministered to the sick, gave food and drink to the hungry, visited those in prison, or gave succor to the weak [see Matthew 25:31-40]. When we reach out to assist the least of heavenly Father’s children, we do it unto Him [see Matthew 24:40]. That is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

            This parable tells us that we must be concerned about other people and care for them as God would have us do. We are particularly commanded to care for those people who are needy. Taken together, the three parables teach us three ways that we can prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior. The parable of the ten virgins teaches of the importance of inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives in order to have sufficient oil in our lamps. The parable of the talents teaches of the importance of doing good with the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given to us. The parable of the sheep and the goats teaches the importance of caring for the people around us, particularly those in need. In the final days of His mortal life, Jesus Christ taught the people how to prepare for his return to earth.

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