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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

At the Crossroads

Keep Your Candle Lit!
Barbara Montrose

Oil is precious.

In December 2019, it was estimated that at the current rate of usage, the crude oil reserves on planet Earth could last only around 33 more years (assuming, of course, that the planet itself might last that long before the imminent return of Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven). Estimates such as this vary, but there is no question that this valuable resource does indeed have a limit.

Those who lived through the oil embargo of 1973 remember well the various hardships felt when oil supplies were severely curtailed. That crisis was due to lack of oil in the material sense—but what happens when we lack oil in the spiritual sense?

Let us look at a beautiful illustration shown to the prophet Zechariah:

In vision he was shown “a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof” (Zechariah 4:2, 3). The explanation was given to the prophet that “these are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:14).

The New Testament also refers to these two anointed ones as two witnesses to whom power would be given to “prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth” (Revelation 11:3, 4).

Looking back over the events that have occurred since the book of Revelation was penned in the 1st century, we find a historic period of 1,260 years, also cited elsewhere in Scripture (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 11:2; 12:6). Using the biblical principle of prophetic interpretation whereby a day equals a year (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6), we recall that the Old and New Testaments indeed gave their undying flicker of light to a world enveloped in deep darkness during the years 538–1798 A.D.

Little appreciated at first—being clothed as it were, in sackcloth—the precious rays of light emanating from these two witnesses grew increasingly brilliant through the courageous labors of great Reformers who faithfully taught from their sacred pages—many at the risk of their lives.

What does oil do?

In the physical sense, various types of oil lubricate; they smooth the pathway. As an emollient for the skin, oil has a softening effect. As a source of fuel, oil supplies energy to motors. Some types of oil are even used as cleansing agents.

And in the scriptures, oil is used as a symbol of God’s Holy Spirit—a divine agency that does all the above things in a spiritual sense, plus more.

Many of us are familiar with the parable of Jesus about the ten virgins, as found in Matthew 25:p>

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:1–13).

How tragic it was when half of them bemoaned their predicament in the darkness of night as they realized that their lamps had flickered out! Why did this happen? It was simply because they had neglected to supply themselves with sufficient oil in case of delay. Their failure to have a surplus revealed an attitude that was too casual, too relaxed in their preparation for the Bridegroom’s arrival.

Can this happen to us, too? Oil lamps are not the main source of light today; modern technology has brought more sophisticated sources of power. But the parable is spiritual, and the principle is timeless. Yes, we likewise could be caught off guard and unprepared to meet Jesus Christ, the true Bridegroom of whom the parable is speaking.

So, we are urged:

“Let every soul note the importance of having a supply of oil. Fill your lamps with holy oil from the two olive trees. This oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, which is poured into the minds of believers, that they may be coworkers with heavenly agencies. The wise virgins, the waiting ones, had their faith and love and patience nourished by the oil of the Spirit of God. Thus it must be with each one who is saved. It is by the Spirit, the gracious agency of heaven, that the lamp is kept from flickering.”1

Our character is tested in times of crisis

In the parable, all the virgins were asleep and, with the announcement of the Bridegroom’s arrival, all woke up at midnight. In the crisis, half were prepared and half were not. So it is today. Have you ever honestly found yourself face-to-face with death? Or at least you honestly felt as if you were in such imminent danger? It is moments like these that reveal whether or not we really have faith in the promises of God. It shows whether or not we are genuinely sustained by His grace or whether we have a lax attitude about life.

Interestingly, “the class represented by the foolish virgins are not hypocrites. They have a regard for the truth, they have advocated the truth, they are attracted to those who believe the truth; but they have not yielded themselves to the Holy Spirit’s working. They have not fallen upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, and permitted their old nature to be broken up. This class are represented also by the stony-ground hearers. They receive the word with readiness, but they fail of assimilating its principles. Its influence is not abiding. The Spirit works upon man’s heart, according to his desire and consent implanting in him a new nature; but the class represented by the foolish virgins have been content with a superficial work. They do not know God. They have not studied His character; they have not held communion with Him; therefore they do not know how to trust, how to look and live. Their service to God degenerates into a form.”2

The Lord describes to the prophet Ezekiel the attitude of this kind of people: “They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Ezekiel 33:31). This casual attitude will be rampant just before Christ’s coming: “In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves . . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1–5). Denying what power? The power to create in us a clean, new heart and renew a right spirit in us. The power to strengthen us to overcome sin. The power to tell others of Christ and Him crucified—and so much more! Let us not miss out on that power! “As many as received [the Word made flesh], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). When we “believe on his name,” we believe in His character. We believe in His power to change us from the heart, from the inside out—even changing our very motives (see Hebrews 4:12). More than what we do, God cares about the reason why we do it. He doesn’t like to have phonies in His service. So, do you want the spiritual power He offers? Now is the time to grasp it with all you’ve got!

The final test will come when it is too late for those who’ve taken these matters in too relaxed a manner. Just as in the parable, many won’t be ready. Jesus states plainly, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21–23).

What a shock that will be to many who profess the name of Christ! They will have claimed to be followers of Jesus, but their experience has been just some shallow talk about Him instead of actually reflecting the beauty of an abiding relationship with Him.

Unfortunately, despite their talk, these have missed out on the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The work of the Spirit on our hearts is what changes us. “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

Christ’s final declaration, “I know you not” are the saddest words that could ever fall on mortal ear. Can you imagine the tragedy and frustration of missing out on the glorious feast of Christ with His precious ones whom He will ransom from the earth?

Ripe for the ruse?

We are warned in Scripture that misinformation—in fact, even malicious disinformation is going to plague this planet more than ever before. We read of “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).

Who falls for such terrible deception? The apostle has told us in advance that even in his day, “the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let [continue to hold it back] until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:7–9).

Of whom is the apostle speaking? If we look earlier in the chapter, we see that verses 2 and 3 bid us not to be shaken in mind or deceived by the man of sin who will be revealed, “the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (verse 4).

Who, then, will be deceived by this antichrist power? Many tend to think that it will be something obvious and easy to recognize. But the reality is that this issue won’t be that simple! “Seeing” should not be “believing” for the faithful at that point. Even now, there are many illusions and deceptions already taking place—false miracles, twisted doctrines, and more. The problem of misinformation is widely acknowledged nowadays and it will only get worse—and the religious world is certainly not exempt from this onslaught of perilous darkness of “spiritual wicked in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

What can be expected?

“The coming of the bridegroom was at midnight—the darkest hour. So the coming of Christ will take place in the darkest period of this earth’s history. The days of Noah and Lot pictured the condition of the world just before the coming of the Son of man. The Scriptures pointing forward to this time declare that Satan will work with all power and ‘with all deceivableness of unrighteousness’ (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10). His working is plainly revealed by the rapidly increasing darkness, the multitudinous errors, heresies, and delusions of these last days. Not only is Satan leading the world captive, but his deceptions are leavening the professed churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. The great apostasy will develop into darkness deep as midnight, impenetrable as sackcloth of hair. To God’s people it will be a night of trial, a night of weeping, a night of persecution for the truth’s sake. But out of that night of darkness God’s light will shine. . . .

“It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth. . . .

“Those who wait for the Bridegroom’s coming are to say to the people, ‘Behold your God.’ The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them. The light of the Sun of Righteousness is to shine forth in good works—in words of truth and deeds of holiness.”3

What does the Holy Spirit do for us?

The Holy Spirit convinces us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8). The Spirit makes us feel sorrow when we have done something wrong—and that’s a good thing. For if we’re not sorry, what will cause us to not repeat the same wrong? The apostle Paul speaks about this in 2 Corinthians 7:10. So, we should yearn for the Holy Spirit to go ahead and show us what we need to repent of—and it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). How wonderful it is to realize that not only are we awakened to our wrongs, but we are also given strength to overcome them:

“At the cost of infinite sacrifice and suffering, Christ has provided for us every essential to success in the Christian warfare. The Holy Spirit brings power that enables man to overcome. It is through the agency of the Spirit that the government of Satan is to be subdued. It is the Spirit that convinces of sin, and, with the consent of the human being, expels sin from the heart. The mind is then brought under a new law—the royal law of liberty.”4

“Take heed today to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Thank God it is not too late for wrongs to be righted. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.”5

The Holy Spirit is working right now!

Have you noticed that strangers now seem to be more open to conversations on spiritual matters than before the pandemic hit? All the unprecedented variables about the current crisis seems to have gotten people to thinking. This is happening through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is an awakening taking place.

“It is through the mighty agency of the Holy Spirit that the government of Satan is to be subdued and subjected. It is the Holy Spirit that convinces of sin and expels it from the soul by the consent of the human agent. . . . Jesus reached to the very depth of human woe and misery, and His love attracts man to Himself. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, He lifts the mind up from its degradation, and fastens it upon the eternal reality. Through the merits of Christ man may be able to exercise the noblest powers of his being and expel sin from the soul.”6

And we have been entrusted with the noble responsibility of reaching out to these searching ones—even when it is not always convenient at times. Yet “there is no help for man, woman, or child who will not hear and obey the voice of duty, for the voice of duty is the voice of God.”7

As the saying goes, the best is yet to come

The good news is that “the great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. The prophecies which were fulfilled in the outpouring of the former rain at the opening of the gospel are again to be fulfilled in the latter rain at its close. Here are ‘the times of refreshing’ to which the apostle Peter looked forward when he said: ‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus’ (Acts 3:19, 20).”8

Do you want to be part of the actionin the last days? Notwithstanding the trials to be faced, this is the most exciting time in the history of the world! The Holy Spirit is to be poured out without measure. Shall we not crave, seek, and yearn for that “surplus” of it rather than spending a mere miserly investment of time with God? Now is the time to plead with the Lord for a rich, abundant outpouring of His Spirit. Jesus declares: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit)” (John 7:38, 39). “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). The result: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (1 Peter 3:15, 16). [Emphasis added.]

Picture the soon-coming scene!

“Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works, with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. Revelation 13:13. Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand.

“The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented. The seed has been sown, and now it will spring up and bear fruit. The publications distributed by missionary workers have exerted their influence, yet many whose minds were impressed have been prevented from fully comprehending the truth or from yielding obedience. Now the rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.”9

What is the most rewarding moment we can ever imagine?

“Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:12, 13).

Just think:

When we act by faith, in hope—unselfish actions will bring the greatest reward in eternity.

“The redeemed will meet and recognize those whose attention they have directed to the uplifted Saviour. What blessed converse they will have with these souls! ‘I was a sinner,’ it will be said, ‘without God and without hope in the world; and you came to me, and drew my attention to the precious Saviour as my only hope. And I believed in Him. I repented of my sins, and was made to sit together with His saints in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ Others will say: ‘I was a heathen in heathen lands. You left your friends and comfortable home, and came to teach me how to find Jesus, and believe in Him as the only true God. I demolished my idols, and worshiped God, and now I see Him face to face. I am saved, eternally saved, ever to behold Him whom I love. I then saw Him only with the eye of faith, but now I see Him as He is. I can now express my gratitude for His redeeming mercy to Him who loved me, and washed me from my sins in His own blood.’ ”10

This makes life worth living! So, let us prayerful consider the wonderful magnitude of the glorious opportunity before us. Shall we not eagerly fill our lamps with the Holy Spirit so freely offered—and fervently keep our candle lit?

1 The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1761.
2 Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 411. [Emphasis added.]
3 Ibid., pp.414–416.
4 The Review and Herald, May 19, 1904. [Emphasis added.]
5 The Youth’s Instructor, November 3, 1893. [Emphasis added.]
6 The Review and Herald, April 25, 1893.
7 Testimonies to Ministers, p. 402.
8 The Great Controversy, pp. 611, 612.
9 Ibid., p.612.
10 Christian Service, p. 274.