Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them [were] wise, and five were foolish. Those who [were] foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was [heard]: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose 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, ‘[No], lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ ” Matthew 25:1–12.
They were all Seventh-day Adventists waiting for the coming of the Lord. They had all been friends, working together to tell people that Jesus is coming soon and that they need to be ready. They had all let their lights shine brightly, but somehow the Lord did not come as soon as they had expected. As time went on, they became involved with good things, such as various church activities, raising a family, and planning for retirement. They had not expected quite so long a delay; and with the passage of time, they began to lose some of their energy and enthusiasm. They were all still faithful Seventh-day Adventists; they were just more relaxed, going to church, doing the things they should; until all of a sudden, things began to happen that caused them to realize that they had better get ready for Jesus to come because He was coming now.
Famine in the Land
As they aroused and went forth to proclaim Jesus’ soon return, some of their lights shone brightly, and they proclaimed with power that Jesus is coming again. Others, however, could not quite seem to get the message all together. They decided that they had better go to some meetings, get involved in some Bible studies, and do some praying and get that power again. But the Bible says that the day will come when there will be a famine in the land. “ ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’ ” Amos 8:11.
I have recently come to the startling realization that this text applies in a special way to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is a text for the Laodiceans. It does not say that they are not going to hear some words, but somehow they are not going to be the Lord’s words.
This latter group represents the five foolish virgins who will be seeking after oil. They are not sitting down doing nothing; they are going from sea to sea, from north to south, attending meetings, listening to preachers, reading books that are published by the only people they know who claim to teach the truth, and whom they have been taught to trust; but there is a famine and they will not find it. You see, these young maidens went to the preachers in whom they had trusted, but their preaching somehow had no power to change their lives, and they did not know where to go; they did not know to whom to go. We have been told that the time is coming when the church will have no more “faithful, firm, and true” preachers. (See Testimonies, vol. 5, 77.)
“Who knows whether God will not give you up to the deceptions you love? Who knows but that the preachers who are faithful, firm, and true may be the last who shall offer the gospel of peace to our unthankful churches? It may be that the destroyers are already training under the hand of Satan and only wait the departure of a few more standard-bearers to take their places, and with the voice of the false prophet cry, ‘Peace, peace,’ when the Lord hath not spoken peace.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 77.
Ministers Taught by Satan
If this statement said that the church would come to the place where it just could not afford any more pastors, or even that there were no more pastors to pastor the churches any longer, that would be bad; but that is not nearly as bad as having pastors who are trained by Satan himself. I will take no pastor any day rather than a pastor that has been trained by Satan.
Sister White goes on to say that it is not even a question of if it could be, but that it will happen. “When God shall work His strange work on the earth, when holy hands bear the ark no longer, woe will be upon the people.” Ibid. This is looking forward to that time when men and women see the signs of God’s coming. Things are happening in the world and they have awakened, but they have no oil in their lamps. They will search from north to south, from east to west. They will read things from the publishing houses that they have trusted. They will go to the churches that they have trusted, and listen to the preachers whom they have trusted; but there is a famine in the land.
A little later in Testimonies, vol. 5, Ellen White tells us some most startling things. Let me share some with you.
“The leaven of godliness has not entirely lost its power. At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abominations that are done in the land. But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church because its members are doing after the manner of the world.
“The earnest prayers of this faithful few will not be in vain. When the Lord comes forth as an avenger, He will also come as a protector of all those who have preserved the faith in its purity and kept themselves unspotted from the world. It is at this time that God has promised to avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them.” Testimonies, vol 5, 209.
It is the little company of those sighing and crying ones because of the abominations that were done in the church. These are the only ones, it says, who will be sealed. The great majority are becoming more and more like the world. We may be surprised at how small that group will be.
Tip of the Iceberg
Speaking of this small group, she says, “They had reproved, counseled, and entreated. Some who had been dishonoring God repented and humbled their hearts before Him. But the glory of the Lord had departed from Israel.” Ibid. The glory of the Lord departed from Israel once before, but she says that a time is again coming when the glory of the Lord will have departed from Israel. She does not stop there, but continues, “Although many still continued the forms of religion, His power and presence were lacking.” Ibid. Sabbath after Sabbath church is going on, with the forms of religion; all the functions of the church are being carried out, Ingathering is continuing, church schools and hospitals are continuing to be operated, but the glory of the Lord has departed from Israel and somehow they do not realize it. They are going on with their religion without the glory of the Lord.
“While others try to throw a cloak over the existing evil, and excuse the great wickedness everywhere prevalent, those who have a zeal for God’s honor and a love for souls will not hold their peace to obtain favor of any.” Ibid. I do not believe that you should focus on problems, but many want to ignore that the problems even exist. They say things like, “We make some mistakes, but let us not get critical.” It is interesting how everyone is concerned about people being critical when we are dealing with certain things; but, dear friend, there is a place for genuine concern. There is a place for speaking out.
“They are powerless to stop the rushing torrent of iniquity, and hence they are filled with grief and alarm. They mourn before God to see religion despised in the very homes of those who have had great light. They lament and afflict their souls because pride, avarice, selfishness, and deception of almost every kind are in the church. The Spirit of God, which prompts to reproof, is trampled underfoot, while the servants of Satan triumph. God is dishonored, the truth made of none effect.” Ibid., 210, 211. It seems that over the last few years it is just like a dam has broken open and we are experiencing a flood of evil. Ellen White continues, “The abominations for which the faithful ones were sighing and crying were all that could be discerned by finite eyes, but by far the worst sins, those which provoked the jealousy of the pure and holy God, were unrevealed.” Ibid., 211. Whatever we see, according to inspiration, it is but the tip of the iceberg.
Now, dear friend, this is shocking to me because somehow in my schematics of the end day, I have always held a picture of the church growing and ruling with apostasy; but there comes a shaking and all of the evil is shaken out. Then we have a pure church and the members go out and give a loud cry. Others come in to take the place of those who have been shaken out, then probation closes, and we go through—a happy, glorious church like at Pentecost. I have been reading things lately, however, that do not seem to fit into that nice, little picture that I have had in my head. Who did we just read about who are going to triumph in the church? It is the servants of Satan, while God is dishonored and the truth made of none effect.
Power, But Not From God
Well, there is a famine in the land, and so these foolish virgins went out to find oil. They once had it, but they were careless. They went to find oil again, and they went to the preachers whom they had trusted. They went to the church that they had grown up in, the church that they knew was the remnant church of Bible prophecy. They read the books from the authors with whom they were acquainted. And, dear friend, as they went out to find oil for their lamps to get their light shining again, by and by they accomplished their purpose, and their lamps were lit again. From somewhere, they found the power for which they were looking. Now that is all in the prophecy.
We are told that when Jesus went into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, that some Adventists, by faith, went in with Him, meaning that they entered by faith into a most holy place experience. While Jesus is cleansing the heavenly sanctuary, they are cleansing their hearts of sin. (See Early Writings, 55.) But some Adventists stayed in the holy place. Now, of course, this refers to First-day Adventists in Ellen White’s day, but it also refers to any Adventist who does not go into the most holy place. “I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, ‘Father, give us Thy Spirit.’ Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace.” Early Writings, 56. Notice that it is not a little, but much power.
Have you ever heard of people who have had a Laodicean experience but now they have found new power in their life—like they have never experienced before? Religion has taken on a new meaning, but when you investigate, you find that it is like the experience of Eve when she ate the forbidden fruit. All of a sudden she felt like she had entered a higher plane. She had a testimony that she could go and tell Adam. “Listen, this fruit is not dangerous. I have entered into a higher realm of experience. My Christian experience has grown. I feel more like God than I ever have before.” And he ate, too.
The Virgins Represent Adventists
We need to remember that the virgins were all Adventists, were they not? They were all waiting for the coming of the Lord. They all had lamps and they all, at one time, had their lamps burning. Let us continue: “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Matthew 25:10–13.
Granted, they got the wrong oil and the wrong fire, but they apparently did not know that. They got some oil, they had some fire in their lamps, and they were out witnessing again with light and power. But while they were getting the oil, the door had closed and they did not know it!
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah [were], so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.” Matthew 24:36–38.
Now, I want you to notice that it says that they did not know it until the flood came. I want you to notice that this is not talking about the fact that the flood came; everyone knew when the flood came. They did not know when probation had closed. Noah had entered in, the door had closed, probation closed, but they did not know it. No one knew that probation had closed. They went on eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the flood came seven days after probation closed. And so, Jesus said, “Also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:39.
The door is going to close while people are not just eating and drinking, but while they are attending church on the Sabbath, while they are paying their tithes and offerings, and while they are going on with all the activities of the church. The door is going to close, and they will not know it. Thus it was with the Jewish nation. While they were doing all these things, the Master came, humbled and disguised; and they did not know it. The door closed, and they went right on with their church business as though nothing had ever taken place. “Many are grieving away the Holy Spirit for the last time, even now, and they know it not….
“Pride of heart prevented His hearers from humbling themselves before God and confessing their sins and resisting His Holy Spirit and reluctantly It left them.” Review and Herald Extra, December 23, 1890.
She goes on to say, “The words spoken by Christ of Jerusalem are, ‘Behold your house is left unto you desolate.’… The Lord forbid that this scene should now be repeated in the experience of God’s professed people! ‘My Spirit,’ He says, ‘shall not always strive with man. The time will come when it must be said of the impenitent, ‘Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone.’
“Will the church see from where she has fallen?” Ibid.
Our Danger—Greater than Israel’s
Now, dear friend, we are told that our danger is even greater than that of ancient Israel. “I was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 609.
I was quite startled by something that I read. I thought that everyone was shaken out of the church before the close of probation, but we are told that, “Those who refuse to be hewed by the prophets and fail to purify their souls in obeying the whole truth, and who are willing to believe that their condition is far better than it really is, will come up to the time of the falling of the plagues and then see that they needed to be hewed and squared for the building. But there will be no time then to do it and no Mediator to plead their cause before the Father.” Early Writings, 71.
There is a pure and holy church that is going to go through; but, dear friend, the outward, legal, obvious church is not going to be purified any time this side of the close of probation. I am afraid that there was never a more fearful delusion than the idea that being part of the church is an assurance of salvation. That is what the Jewish people thought back in Jesus’ day, and when the church crucified Jesus, they went right along with it because they stayed with the church.
Oh, dear friend, may the Lord grant that when the door secretly closes, just as imperceptibly and secretly as the door closed upon the Jewish nation, we will all be on the inside.
Today, God is weighing the church in the balances; He knows their works. He is walking up and down the aisle of every conference office; and, the Bible says that every tree which does not bear good fruit is going to be cut down and thrown into the fire. We may fool men. We may even fool ourselves. But, God reads the thoughts and intents of the heart, and someday soon, while life is going on without any great catastrophe taking place, the door will close. Only those people who fully reflect God’s character will have entered in. When the rest of the people will wake up, it will be too late.
Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.