Preparing for the Return of Christ

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“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:1-13).

Introduction

Wedding ceremonies in Israel during that era were almost always held at night. The bridegroom would go to the bride’s home to bring her back to his. Along the way they would be cheered by those celebrating with them, and towards the end of the route ten bridesmaids would escort them to their new home. We suppose, according to the details of this parable, that sometimes the procession was delayed along the way, so the couple would be late in their arrival. Just like today, someone would be on the lookout for the appearance of the bride and groom. What a terrible thing it would be if the bridesmaids were fast asleep in the reception room, they would certainly be shamefaced! Therefore alertness was called for as they awaited their arrival to the feast.

In this parable the “virgins” represent the church and the “bridegroom” is the return of Christ. We may ask who the ‘bride’ is, but notice that there is no mention of a bride in the story. The parable is simply a foundation to teach an important truth about being watchful; therefore we should not read into it that which is not there. There are three main elements of the parable that once studied reveal the true reason why the Lord spoke it; they are: [1] The bridegroom, [2] the ten virgins, and [3] the lamps and oil. This means that the lamps represent our faith and the oil the presence of the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives. How prepared are we for the Second Coming of Jesus?

Church membership is not enough

Some people think that being members of a church is enough to guarantee their place in the Kingdom of God. It is Christ’s membership book that is the all important one, for if our names are not entered therein then we are lost. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). In the Parable of the Sower two thirds were lost (Matthew 13:1-23). In the Parable of the Talents one third was lost (Matthew 25:14-30). In the Parable of the Ten Virgins half were lost. We cannot ignore this vital point in Christ’s parables, for there are many who have deceived themselves into believing that they are saved because they have said a sinner’s prayer, when in fact they have never been members of the Kingdom of God. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). We see then that it is not those who are in the church, but rather those who are in Christ, who are saved.

We must prepare ourselves

Preparedness is not automatic, for the spiritual condition of the majority in our churches today proves that few are eagerly awaiting the Second Coming of the Lord. Truly the fire has gone out of the lamps of so many! “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22).

We cannot hope to be received into the Kingdom on the basis that others in the church loved and served the Lord. Character and obedience are not transferable! Notice that five virgins forgot to bring extra oil just in case there was any delay. Some say that the “oil” represents good works that accompany faith, but more likely it refers to the Holy Spirit and our obedience to Him. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). If we are not prepared to obey the Lord, then we are not prepared for His Kingdom. Our lamps need to be trimmed and shining brightly as we wait for the Lord’s coming, but we cannot do this without the power which enables us to shine, that is, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. To be a Christian without being obedient to the Lord is like having a lamp without any oil. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-11). Those who are not prepared to meet Christ will have no one to blame but themselves.

Christ’s return is a fact

The early church believed this truth and hoped to experience it in their day, for they took what the Lord said on the matter as absolute fact. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11). One day He will come just as the apostle Paul described in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”

The ten virgins all appeared to be alike until the bridegroom arrived, but soon five of them were shut out forever. The Second Coming of Christ will reveal exactly who truly loved, served and obeyed Him. It is often said by unbelievers that the church is full of hypocrites, and maybe they are not far off the mark! The Lord has His way of telling who they are. “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:16) … “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Once the midnight hour comes there will be no chance to buy any oil and many will be left outside of the Kingdom. The Second Coming of Christ, and all it entails, is a fact, so are we prepared to meet Him?

Conclusion

It is not easy being a Christian in a fallen world. It is not easy being a Christian in a secularised church. All the preparations for a marriage might be hard work, but the final result proves that it was worth all the trouble. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). What a joy it will be to celebrate with the Lord in Heaven! “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:5-9).

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