Matthew 24:42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
In Matthew, the parables Jesus told about the end times include The Flood and Noah (Matthew 24:37-42), The Master of the House and the Thief (Matthew 24:43-44), The Faithful Servant (Matthew 24:45-51), The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and The Judgment of the World (Matthew 25:31-46).
Each of these parables has a distinct eschatological theme. The central message is that the time of the Lord’s coming cannot be known. In light of this, it is critical to remain awake and prepared. Being prepared is to be understood especially in terms of being faithful to tasks entrusted to one by God. The theme increases in intensity as the parables are told until it eventually dominates entirely in the last of the parables on the judgment of the world.
My favorite, though, is the parable of the ten virgins. The parable presents the story of ten virgins who go out to meet the bridegroom. Jesus Christ, in his return, is the bridegroom. The ten virgins are a picture of those calling themselves Christians. The ten virgins in this parable represent the visible Church. That the Church is compared to the ten bridesmaids rather than the bride, shows the diversity within the unified Church. No single kind of individual makes up the Church.
The significant aspect of this parable is the division of the ten virgins into two groups, “five of them were wise, and five were foolish”. They shared so many common features: they were all bridesmaids; they all went out to meet the bridegroom; they all had lamps; all fell asleep while they waited; and all were awakened by the cry at midnight. Nonetheless, the difference between the two groups is vital. Five were wise and five were foolish. The foolishness of five consisted in the fact that although they brought lamps, they had no extra supply of oil. Thus these five were unprepared to meet the bridegroom. This is the point of the parable. The wise Christian is prepared for the Bridegroom’s return.
With the expression “the bridegroom tarried” Jesus may be indicating that the Church must wait for a time until his return. Furthermore, the comment that the bridegroom came “at midnight” may indicate the existence of a time of spiritual darkness over the earth when the Lord returns.
The harsh reality of this parable, however, is that there are two kinds of individuals calling themselves “Christians”. Outwardly all profess to being Christians. None are totally unbelievers. We are not talking about the differences between an unbeliever and a child of God. Rather, the issue here concerns the distinction between those in the Church who are spiritually alive and those who are not.
Jesus did not condemn hypocrisy in this parable, but he did denounce spiritual self-delusion. When the midnight cry sounded only five virgins had their lamps ready. The five foolish virgins had taken for granted that they would be in the wedding party. It is one of the most severe and disturbing truths of the Bible that some who are engrossed in religious affairs and imagine themselves to be participants in God’s kingdom will actually be refused entrance.
What did the five virgins lack? Some believe that the foolish virgins lacked a living faith. They only had an outward appearance of Christianity. Others believe that their faith lacked works and thus dead (James 7:17). Both interpretations contain a lesson for us.
The wise virgins could not lend any of their oil to those who had none. There is no implication that the merits of the righteous will in any way help others on the day of Christ’s return. The relationship between the soul of man and God is deeply personal. No one will go to heaven because of a father’s or mother’s prayers or faith in God. The foolish virgins could not borrow from anyone.
Those prepared joined the bridegroom in the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later when the foolish virgins arrived, they were denied entrance. The parable concludes with a harsh warning. As he had implied on several other occasions, Jesus said there is coming a time when it will be “too late” to enter the Kingdom.
Now is the time to begin a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He loves each of us. He wants us to spend eternity with him. His stern warning is not to condemn us, but to warn us of how disastrous a lack of living faith can be. Open your Bibles and get to know him through the eyes of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Listen to Jesus’ words as he speaks to your heart through his word. Consider prayerfully what he has to say and apply his precepts to your own life. For his words are a “lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path” (Psalm 119:105). Grow in Christ. Then, when at last you are standing before our Lord, his word to you will be “Well done, good and faithful servant –enter into the joy of your Lord. (Matthew 25:21)