Summary: When Jesus returns to take His people to heaven, we must be ready. Spiritual preparation cannot be bought or borrowed at the last minute. The story of how the 5 virgins missed it all is perfectly true to life. It gives us the imagery of how we need to be
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 not 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. Amen!
Introduction: The circumstances of the parable of the ten virgins were taken from the marriage customs among the Jews, and 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. 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) ~
(a) Fake: The foolish took no oil with them - No more than kept them burning just for the present. None to supply their future want, to recruit their lamp’s decay. The five foolish virgins probably expected that the bridegroom would come immediately; they therefore made no provision for any delay.
(b) Real: The lamp is faith. A lamp and oil with it, is faith working by love. It also symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit [God] in our lives. For a believer it is evident in our fruit bearing. The wise took oil in their vessels - Love in their hearts. And they daily sought a fresh supply of spiritual strength, till their faith was made perfect. This needed to be kept burning continually even in undesirable circumstances.
2. Making OR Missing the Mark (vs. 5 – 9) ~
• All slept and slumbered (the ready and unprepared) ~ yet could either be ready or miss the bus.
• All heard the midnight cry (will be sudden) ~ yet some could meet and some didn’t.
• All trimmed (adorned – casting away the works of darkness) their lamps ~ yet some passed and some failed.
(a) Presence of Oil: Possessing oil illustrates the concept of being prepared; lack of oil represents being unprepared for Christ’s return. Biblically oil has been the symbol of the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Old Testament we see oil being used for holy purposes. The priests were consecrated and ordained unto God as oil was poured upon their heads … "Then you shall take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him" (Exodus 29: 7 - see also Leviticus 8). The evidence of the operation and the working of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives are of prime importance.