Come Out To Meet Him!
Key Verse 25:6
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”
Jesus’ last sermon about the end of the age was to say the least, difficult to hear! They would be times of sufferings unequalled to from the beginning of time. They would be times of deception where the evil one would deceive many. The love of most would grow cold. Faith would be scarce. And when the Son of God finally returns to judge the world as God had promised that he would, the whole world would see him and mourn. But their mourning would be in vain, because the time of mourning, repentance and the forgiveness of sin would be over. It would be time of reckoning for every man and woman, for the Bible tells us very clearly that: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) After his discourse on the end times, Jesus ended it with advice to be faithful and wise stewards of what God has entrusted us with in this life; keeping watch and being on the alert, because we don’t know what day our Lord will be returning. (24:42, 45) In other words, he wants every Christian to be on the ready when he returns, for it won’t go well for those who aren’t! These warnings of Jesus trouble me because they are pretty serious, and because so often non Christians and Christians alike are in the habit of not taking them seriously! Jesus will surely return! And he wants us to be ready. The question is are we ready? And if we are, how ready are we? In this final chapter before his crucifixion, Jesus tells three amazing parables about his return and the coming of the kingdom he came to establish. In these three parables, he focuses especially on how one can tell if he or she is ready or not for his unexpected return. Let’s pray that we may take his words seriously and learn what it takes to make ourselves ready for Christ’s return.
Look at verse 1. “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” The words, at what time, mean that Jesus is still talking about the end times, the time he returns to bring his people home to kingdom paradise. We should know that the subject of the Kingdom isn’t some side teaching of the Bible. It’s rather a centermost teaching of the Bible and of all of Jesus’ gospel teachings. It was the first thing Jesus preached as he went around (Mark 1:15) and the last thing he taught about before his ascension to heaven (Acts 1:3). Actually Jesus never stopped talking about the kingdom of God from the time he began teaching till the time he returned to heaven from where he came. The kingdom was his main concern. It was at the heart of his teaching. Why? Because Jesus came specifically for the purpose of restoring it to all of us since we lost it at the dawn of time. We not only lost kingdom paradise when Adam was kicked out of it, but the human race also lost sight of it and in a way forgot all about it. But Christ Jesus had the mission from God to restore us to the kingdom paradise we lost. Of course, Jesus came to die for our sins. But in dying for our sins, Christ also freed us from the punishment of sin which is death, and liberated us in such a way that we are now able to return home to kingdom paradise. This message of the kingdom, therefore, was always on Jesus’ heart not only because Christ came to restore it, but also because every human being needs to hear it.
So then, Jesus’ parable about the ten virgins is all about the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom paradise which will become available upon his return. In this story Jesus talks about some who will be welcome into this kingdom and some who will not. As much as Jesus seems to be talking about the end times in this story, it will be more like a beginning than an end, for it will be the beginning of eternal life for some and the beginning of eternal condemnation for others. And that in itself is not a small thing either. We shudder to think of it, since God’s eternal judgment on the human soul will determine whether one will enter the kingdom or not. Many in this world have no fear of God and think little of how they live their lives in the world, and the consequences of rejecting God and his message. For this reason Jesus continues to teach everyone about the kingdom of God, and how to live lives that will gain them entrance into the eternal life in his kingdom paradise. No human being has an excuse not to listen to the Lord’s words, for God has given every person a measure of faith by which he or she may hear his words and engage that faith through the outpouring of God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit on this world. One must have a heart like a child, a humble heart willing to hear the Lord’s words and to take them to heart in faith, and then make every effort to secure them in that heart, since faith also assures us that, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but [his] words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
In this parable, Jesus compares the kingdom to ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom. What’s the significance of virgins here? Culturally, they were young, lively and joyful girls who served as a welcoming team for the bridegroom. They met him when he arrived in order to escort him to his wedding banquet. After that, they catered to all of the bride’s and the bridegroom’s needs. Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to this kind of joyful meeting of the bridegroom with his welcoming team of young virgins. What Jesus wanted to teach Christians through this is that the heavenly kingdom will be a most joyous celebration. It will be a reunion of the long awaited bridegroom with his bride, along with all her handmaidens whose presence brought the joyous celebration to a climax. Actually, if we listen carefully to what the Lord is teaching here, we can see that the kingdom paradise is the most blessed reunion of our Father God with his long lost people who had been lost to him for such a long time because of sin. It is amazing to consider the most significant event in human history! There is nothing like it. We had lost kingdom paradise, and the way had been cut off for our return. But in Christ’s sacrifice, and in his return, the time will be when every child of God will re-enter that kingdom paradise. It is everything we have ever hoped for. It is the reward every Christian longs for.
Look at verse 1 again. “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Before the celebrations start, the virgins have to wait for the bridegroom to escort him to the wedding banquet. That’s their responsibility— and it’s not a small and insignificant one either! Actually, they are the hosts whose shouts announce the coming of the bridegroom. But when we think on a spiritual level, who are these virgins? Collectively, they represent the whole Christian believing church whose responsibility is to meet with Jesus the bridegroom at the end of the age, and to escort him to his wedding banquet. Now, on a more personal level, these virgins should represent every believing Christian and child of God whom Christ had redeemed through faith in his death and resurrection. That’s why we need to look closely at this parable considering that each virgin is a believer or a would be believer.
These virgins were all given the responsibility to greet the bridegroom at the time of his arrival, when he enters into his glory. If they were well prepared and alert, there would be nothing to hinder the celebration from beginning on time. But if they weren’t well prepared or alert in one way or another, they would surely be a hindrance to the most significant event in history. Jesus gave all the virgins a very important position in the coming of the kingdom of God. And how each of them handled their responsibility would be equally as important. Now we need to see what he tells us about the way they handled their responsibility. Look at verses 2-4. “Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.” The first thing he tells us about them is that they were not all the same. Some were foolish and some were wise! He also tells us what make the foolish ones foolish as well as what made the wise ones wise. The foolish ones took their lamps to the waiting place, but they did not take extra oil for the lamps. But the wise ones took their lamps and also prepared some extra oil for them. What’s going on here?
All the virgins came to meet the bridegroom when he came. All of them brought lamps with them, burning in the night so that they might light the way to the banquet hall. The lamps all of them brought are very significant. Why? Because they light up the way to the kingdom of God! How so? The Bible constantly talks about the world as being a dark place— a place where no one can see the way— especially a dark place where no one can see the way to God and to his kingdom. And that’s the truth. In this dark place of a world we live in, people pretend to see. They pretend that there’s enough light for them to see where they come from and where they are going. They pretend to see God and to know where they are going. But for the most part, if they don’t know Christ, who is the only true light of the world, they can never find their way back to God or to his kingdom. But those who come to know Christ and to follow him find God. They find eternal life and the kingdom of God. The virgins all came carrying lamps. They came equipped with the light of God which showed them the way to life. They had all known that Jesus is the light of the world. They had all believed his words to be true. They had all seen his light which shone into the darkness and exposed sin. They were no longer blinded by the world. All the virgins now knew that the way to God and to the kingdom was through his Son Jesus Christ. It was amazing that of all the people of the world, some had the assurance that Jesus is the light of the world, the truth and the life and the way to God and to his kingdom. How wonderful that that some had the lamps burning through the night of this world to see the way to the kingdom of God.
Yet, we are surprised that our Lord says that some of these virgins were foolish and some were wise. What made them so? He says that the foolish ones didn’t come prepared with enough oil to last through the night! And this may be one of the most significant truths in the Bible. Not having enough oil to last the night! What does that mean? The oil may represent many things, but it mostly represents one’s faith. Let’s think about this for a moment. When we first come to Jesus, we must come prepared with faith. It is faith which leads us to Jesus and it is faith which brings us to him in repentance for the forgiveness of our sins. Anyone who wants to be forgiven must repent and ask the Lord to forgive him or her through faith in him. But Jesus called the ones who didn’t bring extra oil foolish. He meant that they knew the way to the kingdom of God, but they didn’t know how to prepare enough oil to last the whole night. Some people know the way to the kingdom of God, but they do not know how to prepare in every situation in life with faith. They know that the word of God is the truth, that the Lord’s words are the light shining in the darkness, but they do not know how to fight the darkness with faith in the word of God. They know how to live a superficial life as a follower of Christ, but when the situation demands devotion and dedication, when it demands sacrifice and patience and endurance— in other words, an abundance of faith, they don’t have that. They had never prepared for it.
On the other hand the wise ones came prepared with the extra oil. They had not only known the way of truth, but they had applied their faith in every situation. They had also known that faith is not something one uses once or twice in life, but they had known that faith is something one holds dear in one’s heart, practices daily, employs all the time, puts to use in every occasion, relies on in every circumstance. They had known that faith can never be enough, that it must be exercised so that it might grow and mature and be ready when needed. In that way they were wise. So when they were called upon to wait for the bridegroom, they didn’t take it lightly. They went prepared to wait, even if it took a long time for his coming. The foolish ones didn’t consider difficulties, obstacles, hardship, sufferings along the way, all the things that might interfere with the plan. They were foolish not to heed the bridegroom’s caution. But the wise ones did. And so they planned and prepared their hearts daily with what it takes to wait up till he arrives.
Practically speaking, when we know that the way to the kingdom of God, and we have accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, how can we prepare for his return? How can we prepare extra oil in our lamps? I cannot tell you anything that I have not already told you before and will continue to tell you again and again because it is of utmost importance. The word of God is Life! And we must engage the word of God until when? Until as Peter says: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) — Until the morning star— Jesus— rises in our hearts— until our faith in Christ grows day by day, and strong enough to meet up with all that happens in the dark night of life. And many things happen in the dark of life that need faith to overcome and to endure and to stand fast. So we need to study the word of God, and pray, and join together in fellowship and in prayer. And we need to be doing the Lord’s work showing others the way to the kingdom, and not sitting idly waiting for his return. So I pray that God may strengthen your faith through the challenges he gives you in life. Every challenge is not a time to give up in despair. Instead every challenge is an opportunity to put your faith into practice and to store up oil in your lamps. Christians today want to believe in Jesus, but don’t want to do anything else. They don’t want to struggle— don’t want to be challenged— don’t want to search their souls— don’t want to repent. How could they ever think to be wise and store up extra oil if they don’t do that?
Look at verses 5-12. “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’” It was a terrible and unexpected end for the foolish virgins! They had lamps that guided them to the doorstep of the Savior. But they didn’t expect him to be so late. It was foolish of them to think that the oil they had would be enough! Like so many people today who think that what they believe and think is enough! And they won’t listen to spiritual reason. Maybe the foolish ones though that the wise ones were the foolish ones because they were wasting their time collecting extra oil. It’s also what some think of committed Christians who dedicate their time to serving the Lord and to growing in his word. And while the wise virgins were out gathering extra oil, maybe the foolish ones thought they had better things to do with their time. Now the bridegroom returned. And they didn’t have enough to keep their lamps burning. And couldn’t borrow any from the wise ones either! Spiritually speaking, what this means is that faith can never be shared. You can’t give me your faith and I can’t give you mine. We can inspire each other’s faith. But faith is personal and God regards each person’s faith his or her own. This is the time to get the oil we need. When we stand before God, we can only stand with our own oil.
Look at verse 13. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” This was and still is the Lord’s counsel to the wise. If you are wise, keep watch. And to keep watch, you will need faith! You and I must do everything we can to have and to grow in faith. During the long night of this world while we are waiting for the Lord’s return, what’s the most important thing? I guess, “Live by faith; stand firm in the faith; grow in faith”— of course, faith in Christ. It’s faith that brings us to Christ. And it will be faith that marks those who enter the kingdom of God with the bridegroom. May God give you wisdom! What kind of wisdom? The wisdom not to waste your life or time on worldly things, but to spend your heart on Christ and on faith in him. The Bible says that faith is the victory. Faith will bring us safely to his kingdom. Amen.