Summary: Are you ready to meet your Lord of lords and King of kings? If you aren’t, will you be challenged today to pursue to get right and ready to meet your Savior, Lord and King whenever He turns up?
Opening illustration: Articulate my early arrival for my marriage ceremony and the people from the bride’s side were not ready and waiting at the church gate for welcoming the guests from the bridegroom’s family. On a similar note my youngest brother-in-law arrived 3 hours late during his wedding to my youngest sister. This caused chaos, frustration and confusion. But even then everything was ready and on the move. No matter what the circumstances, we must always not only be ready, but ready to go.
Introduction: The circumstances of the parable of the ten virgins were taken from the marriage customs among the Jews to explain the great day of Christ’s coming. There were two phases to Jewish weddings. First the bridegroom went to the bride’s home to obtain his bride and observe certain religious ceremonies. Then he took his bride to his own home for the resumption of the festivities. Christ will take his bride, the church, to heaven before the tribulation period begins; then He will return with His bride at His second coming to the marriage supper on earth. In this passage many have a lamp of profession in their hands, but have not, in their hearts, sound knowledge and settled resolution, which are needed to carry them through the services and trials of the present state. Their hearts are not stored with holy dispositions, by the new-creating Spirit of God. Too many real Christians grow remiss, and one degree of carelessness makes way for another. Those that allow themselves to slumber will scarcely keep from sleeping; therefore dread the beginning of spiritual decays. The ten virgins in this parable were waiting for the wedding procession that went from the bride’s home to the home of her husband. This nighttime procession would use lamps to light the way because ancient cities did not have streetlights. This passage tells us that every person is responsible for his or her own spiritual condition. When Jesus returns to take His people to heaven, we must be ready. Spiritual preparation cannot be bought or borrowed at the last minute. Our relationship with God must be our own. Watch therefore; attend to the business of your souls. Be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.
If we look at this parable with western eyes, it may seem to us to tell an unnatural and a “made-up” story. Therefore we have to keep the western concept of marriage outside this context. There may seem to be some problems with the parable. Although this is a parable about a wedding, there is no bride! And when the bridegroom does arrive—at midnight!—the wise bridesmaids tell the foolish ones to go out and buy oil for their lamps—at midnight! We have to understand that a Biblical/Eastern wedding revolves around the bridegroom and not the bride and wedding can run late into the night. But in point of fact, it tells a story which could have happened at any time in Palestine and even happens today in the middle-east and Asian countries. Now the point of this story lies in a Jewish custom which is very different from anything we know. When a couple got married in Palestine, they did not go away for a honeymoon; they stayed at home; and for a week they kept open house; they were treated, and even addressed as a prince and princess; it was the gladdest week in all their lives. To the festivities of that week their chosen friends were admitted; and it was not only the marriage ceremony, it was also that joyous week that the foolish virgins missed, because they were unprepared. The story of how they missed it all is perfectly true to life. It gives us the imagery of how we need to be ready for Christ’s return which could apparently happen anytime.
How to prepare ourselves for Christ’s return?
1. Determining the ‘Real’ and ‘Fake’ (vs. 1 – 4)
Now, as we come to the parable of the ten virgins, for some reason, many people think that these virgins are the bride. There are some who believe that this parable represents the bridegroom coming for his bride at an hour she does expect. Here, we have no mention of a bride, but rather ten virgins. Maybe they could be called bridesmaids. They were part of the brides’ wedding party, but they were not the bride. So we cannot associate these virgins with the bride of Christ, the church.
So who are these virgins? We know from Jewish culture, that at the wedding celebration for the whole town, one of the acts of entertainment was to have ten virgins perform a wedding dance around the bride and groom. They would hold lamps or torches and perform a torch-dance. It would symbolize the light of their love and the bright future they had together. They would dance for the entertainment of the guests and wedding party. They would dance until their torches burned out.