A Rebuttal to Matthew 25

Dave Zelenka, at his blog Lamp of the Body, wrote on a rapture post of mine that I was wrong about Matthew 25; that the parable of the wise and foolish virgins was not about the rapture. He is in the process of going through Christ's parables on his blog, so I visited it and read his case. I am going to respond to him via this post in the hopes that he will be interested in my side.

Here's the bottom line: Zelenka turns a serious parable with a serious context into a flowery message about doing good works to get to know Jesus better. I don't know Zelenka from a hole in the wall. For all I know he's a great guy. One thing is for certain...he has little desire to prove a serious student of the Bible. Countless scholars who have problems with the idea of the rapture have given serious rebuttals to the parable of the virgins. Zelenka, unfortunately, seems to mock it by creating imagery that almost creates a second story on top of the first.

First, about falling asleep. It's as easy to see Zelenka's presupposition as it is to see mine. Just like I see the reason they fell asleep as being because the rapture has been a long time coming, and the church stopped looking (which by in large it has), so Zelenka has his amillennial view right up front. He sees the falling asleep as death. Others have tried to use this argument in John 14:6. It is not new, but it is wrong. I addressed this in a paper I wrote, which has not yet been accepted for peer review, but is in the process.

It is true that we “fall asleep” when we die (I Thess 4:13-18, etc). However, it is not always the case that when the Bible speaks of sleeping that it means death. Sometimes when someone in the Bible sleeps, they just sleep (Mark 4:35-38, etc).

Similarly, when discussing the oil, Zelenka wants to find a meaning behind the oil, as if it's not enough that it's just oil. They didn't have refining like we do now, or even in America's early history. Israelites didn't have kerosene lamps. They used oil to light their way at night. What was the oil and lamp used for? Zelenka believes that Jesus was really talking about good works; that we can find Jesus and get closer to him in every day life by doing good deeds. Again, he's forcing it. While light does often mean something else in the Bible, it is almost always explained, not inferred (Psalm 119:105).

While I can't be 100% sure that this passage is talking about the rapture, watching Zelenka recreate the parable brings me no closer to believing his viewpoint either. In Zelenka's worldview, the lamps are not lamps, the oil isn't oil, and the light isn't light, and sleeping isn't sleeping. It just doesn't add up.

To his point about doing good works, I generally agree. Of course doing good works brings us in line with what God wants from us. We are told that specifically in Ephesians 2:10. It's not rocket science, but it is important to deal with the Bible correctly and in context. I do not believe that Zelenka does this.

3 comments:

boilt frog said...

I agree with you that this man's interpretation is bad. Eisegesis galore. If sleep in the parable equals death, our works run out while we are in the grave; so we are condemned. The two sets of five virgins are the five finger on each hand in the following parable? There is nothing said about fingers in the separation of the sheep from the goats. The lamp is our hope? How does he know this?

Attach a link in his comments section to your site.

Dan Smith said...

I can't believe we agree! Such excitement! Such happiness!

Dave Z said...

Ouch! Can we agree to disagree about the rapture? And I certainly wouldn't call my understanding flowery: There are five virgins on each hand of God. Five are going with the goats. And five are going with the sheep.

The important thing is to work to allow God to fill up our oil flasks and do the work of the Holy Spirit: Blaspheme of the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin. We blaspheme by not allowing our flask to be filled.

We are all sinners. We are in need of repentance. We are called to do good work and shine the love of God. We are called to stand up for the truth.

The parables are tough on all of us...as the should be.