Summary: This parable of Jesus tells us to: 1. Be Alert. 2. Be Prepared. 3. Be Filled.
I can still remember the excitement and confusion in the 1980’s which surrounded the publication of a booklet by Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, entitled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. He sent his book out free to people all over the United States. There must have been hundreds of thousands of copies distributed. People were all stirred up thinking this could be true. After all, how could someone as smart as a NASA engineer be wrong? And he did present his case very logically. Given certain presuppositions, he even made a lot of sense. But he placed as much value on some of his hypotheses as he did biblical truth, and, obviously, ended up being very wrong.
A while back, evangelist Jack van Impe predicted that 2001 was the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Which I find very interesting since he believes in a pre-tribulational rapture of the church. In other words, Christ is supposed to return before the Tribulation to remove his followers from the world. Evidently, Dr. van Impe was overlooked. I wish I had kept all the pamphlets and articles which predicted the return of Christ during my lifetime. Too bad they did not pay attention to the words of Jesus: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
It is just as unfortunate, however, that people summarily dismiss the second coming of Christ because of these hasty prognosticators. The second coming of Jesus Christ into the world is just as much of a reality whether people wrongly predict the time of his coming, or whether or not people believe in his second coming at all. The second coming of Christ is mentioned 318 times in the 260 chapters of the New Testament. It occupies one in every 25 verses from Matthew to Revelation. And therefore we are called to take it seriously and do at least three things. These are the same things the bridesmaids were called to do as they awaited the bridegroom in Jesus’ parable.
The first thing we must do is: Be alert. We must be looking for the signs of his coming. We understand that we cannot know the day or the hour, or even the year, but we can know the season. We are to watch for those signs so that we are not caught off guard. In the parable we read together today, in the same verse that Jesus said, “you do not know the day or the hour,” he also said, “Keep watch ” We are not to dismiss or ignore the signs of his coming simply because we do not know the time, in fact, it is precisely because the time is unknown that we should be watching for it. “Therefore keep watch,” he said, “because you do not know the day or the hour.” It is because we do not know the day or the hour that we should keep watch, because he does not want us to be caught unaware.
The purpose of Christ’s first coming to earth was to introduce us to himself. He wanted us to see what God was like and have a clearer picture of him. He wanted us to have a look into his heart, his character and his will. He came to enhance our understanding of the Scriptures and fulfill them. But when he comes the second time, he will be coming to claim the world as his own. He will judge the sin of the world and punish those who continue in their sin. He will ban evil, and evil persons, from his kingdom, ushering in his kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy. It will be safe from every fear and every tear. It will be an everlasting kingdom where he will reign forever and ever.
Here is the biblical promise: “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
But what if you are not alert and miss the signs of his coming? The foolish bridesmaids were not taking the bridegroom’s coming seriously. They were there to have fun. They were not watching for the signs of the bridegroom’s arrival, and because of that, they missed it. They fell asleep instead of staying alert. It is important that you are not falling asleep spiritually in these important days. You don’t want to be living in a state of spiritual stupor and apathy when alertness is called for.