Now there is a leveling question. It is asked by Thomas Shepard in The Parable of the Ten Virgins. The question is part of his sermon notes on the visible church of God. Shepard opens with the point that the church is the very place that God prepares his bride to meet Christ, and that it is not the kingdom of this world, but rather the very kingdom of heaven. “The estate of the visible church will be like ten virgins” (16).

In this sermon, Shepard wants to press the point “that the visible church of God on earth, especially in the times of the gospel, is the kingdom of heaven upon earth”(17). Some of the reasons he gives is that the King of heaven reigns as the King of grace as he is present with his church, his law is given, his promises are proclaimed, we gather with fellow heirs of heaven, and the visible church is where we see “the very glory of heaven begun” (18).

As I was reading through each of these reasons explained further, I thought about how easily I take the church for granted. But Shepard pleas for us to be grateful for the honor that has been bestowed on us, to be “called out of the world, and planted in his church. What hath the Lord done, but opened the way to the tree of life, and let you into paradise again?” (19). We were so unfit for heaven, and yet God has brought heaven down to us. He has betrothed us to his Son, and washed us clean.

Sure, we wait for the new heaven and the new earth, where we will have glorified resurrected bodies without sin. We wait for our Bridegroom to come for us. But we have a foretaste in the church. Shepard rebukes us by asking, “Do you know where you are?” (20).

Is heaven not good enough for you? Are we not satisfied in the love of the Savior and the fellowship of the saints? The holy God has called us, the enemy, into his kingdom. We were in utter darkness and despair and he has rescued us and made us fellow heirs.

What is our response? Do we love the earthly kingdom more than the heavenly reign? Are we indifferent to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we jealous over the truth? Do we live according to the reality of the kingdom of heaven?

Is not heaven good enough for thee? Can not that content thee which many have desired to see, and could not see, even the Lord Jesus, the King of glory in his beauty, in the assemblies of the saints? (20)
Or are we mere pretenders, fools, who have lamps with no oil?

*Originally published on December 12, 2014.