New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 22: “Inherit the Kingdom Prepared for You”
What is heaven like, and how does one make it in? Jesus shares a few parables to explain these.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
In a June 2007 Ensign article by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, we are encouraged to think of the Parable of the Ten Virgins as connected to the temple. Elder Robbins remarked, “When speaking of His Second Coming, the Lord has said, ‘I will suddenly come to my temple’ (D&C 36:8; see also D&C 42:36; 133:2; Malachi 3:1; 3 Nephi 24:1). Because He will come to His temple, we would be wise to prepare to meet Him by being temple worthy.”
There is much we may consider in light of the modern temple experience and the Parable of the Ten Virgins:
1. The Virgins are good people. They are, after all, virgins. The question is, will they remain steadfast in their purity until they are called forth? Or will they allow their purity dim before they arrive at the marriage feast?
2. The temple is the House of the Lord. It is where we prepare to see the Face of God and be in His Presence (Shekinah). To become part of the Groom’s family (i.e., his bride) means you have full access to Him, his presence, and the blessings of his riches.
3. The temple is a place for marriage, particularly eternal marriage, but also where we bind ourselves to God through sacred oaths and covenants of obedience and faithfulness.
4. To enter the temple, one must be worthy. While we do not have to be virgins, we must be chaste and holy. Our light must shine and not be distinguished. We must endure to the end and not falter or let our lights dim prior to our appearance before the Lord.
5. There is a “keeper of the gate” in both the parable and in the temple. This person ensures only those properly prepared may enter. Brigham Young taught that "Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." (Journal of Discourses 2:31). This “keeper of the gate” is well attested to in ancient Jewish and Christian writings (see Apocalypse of Paul).
6. The lamps of oil were used as part of the procession. They lit the way to the actual wedding, and were a necessary part of the procession. To have one’s light go out while going to the wedding was an insult to the groom and his family. In modern terms, we have to provide righteous desires and acts to establish our character and worthiness to be a member of the wedding party.
In choosing to be a wise Virgin, we prepare for the wedding of the Bridegroom and to enter into His Presence. As with the Virgins, there should be no other thing more important than to prepare and wait for him to call for us.
Parable of the Talents
Bryce Anderson notes not only Elder Robbins’ connections regarding the Ten Virgins, but also in his second blog post on Matthew 25, a relationship between the Parable of the Talents and the temple.
He explains that Christ is the man who has traveled far from home (heaven), leaving his treasures and business in the hands of his servants. God “endowed” each of us with certain talents or gifts, and charged us to do something useful and productive with those gifts. Whether we think of these talents in terms of money, artistic abilities, or spiritual endowments of knowledge and power, it is the same.
Anderson notes regarding the person with five talents: “The first disciple was true and faithful to the talents that he had been given of the Lord, and upon giving them back to the Lord was allowed into the Lord’s presence, the celestial kingdom, to be made a ruler, a king and a priest.”
In considering the Parable of the Talents, we may consider it in another way. God gives to Latter-day Saints callings and responsibilities. Not everyone will be an apostle, stake president or bishop. Each is given a responsibility, however. Whether it is a large task, where 5 talents is given to be an apostle, or a smaller task as nursery leader requiring two talents, it is the same to God. When both individuals performed faithfully and did their best, both were promised great rewards in the kingdom of God. This is practiced in the temple. Righteous members enter the House of the Lord dressed in their best, whether it is a $500 dress from Neiman-Marcus, or the best one can find at Goodwill. All enter and change into simple white clothing that makes all of us equal before God. All receive identical ordinances. All receive the blessing of entering into the celestial room, representing the Presence (Shekinah) of the Lord. All are promised eternal lives and exaltation.
It doesn’t matter to God how many talents each of us receives, but what we do with what we have. And in being faithful, we will receive of His fullness.
For the last servant, God did not attempt to overburden him. He gave him just one small responsibility or talent to develop. But the servant rejected the call to serve and develop that talent. As with the foolish virgins, he allowed his light to go out. He intentionally buried the gifts of God, so that he would not have to work and produce and become holy. There are many members of the Church that promise and covenant to keep commandments, serve, and obey. Yet there are few who actually follow through. Only a small percentage of members enter into the temple and receive all its promises. The only reason why so few enter, is that most bury their spiritual gifts. People do not wish to pay tithes, live the Word of Wisdom, obey the law of chastity.
In rejecting and not developing the talents and covenants given them, they have shut the door on their exaltation. When the gifts are so fully rejected that we bury them completely away where we do not have to deal with them at all, the person has become an enemy to Christ, and is not worthy of his kingdom. There is only one place for a son of perdition, who has despised the spiritual gifts and promises made to him. Even if he had partially worked with the talent given him, he would have been worthy of some reward in the heavens. But he not only ignored the talent, he intentionally buried it, called the Lord a hard man (blaming the Lord and setting up an adversarial relationship).
In the temple, we learn that we may develop a loving and eternal relationship with God. However, we also learn that some choose to be an adversary instead. Such are sent away, not allowed into the wedding chamber, nor rewarded with greater blessings of the Lord.
Jesus taught that heaven is a great feast, where we are made rulers over many things. However, to enter into the feast, one must be prepared. We must take the lamp we are given and fill it with oil, with enough to spare, so that it does not go out. We must not bury the lamp or talents, but do the best we can to develop and grow. Our light must shine before the world as a witness to the Bridegroom, so that others may see our good works and glorify in God as well (Matt 5:14-16). As with the wise Virgins, we are to invite others to the wedding, encouraging them to go out and obtain their own oil and good works, so that when the Lord does come, we will all be ready to enter into His Presence.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins, “Oil in Our Lamps”, Ensign, June 2007
Bryce Hammond’s Temple Study blog, “Temple Imagery in the Parables of Matthew 25”:
Part One: http://www.templestudy.com/2008/03/06/temple-imagery-in-the-parables-of-matthew-25-part-1/
Apocalypse of Paul (gatekeeper in the heavens):