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Parable of the virgins

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Watch Ye

Matthew 25:1-13

ILL:    When you were a child most of you probably had the experience of having company over. Your mother would spend all day preparing for the company. She made you do things that you had never done before. Then when company opens the door, your mom would always say, “Excuse the house…it’s a real mess.” As a child you would look around and wonder what she was talking about.

Now let’s imagine that the same company came over the next Friday evening unannounced?

The difference in the two Friday nights is the simple fact that mom prepared for company.

In this parable, Jesus is simply telling us to be prepared.

ILL:    What is the context of the parable that Jesus is telling? Imagine yourself in Manhattan on April 4, 1973. You have just attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the WTC. You look at a friend of yours and express your amazement at the buildings. Your friend looks at you and says, “Well in less than 30 years these buildings will be sold as scrap to foreign companies.

This passage of scripture is positioned right in the middle of what we call the Olivet Discourse. Jesus and the disciples had just departed from the temple complex, and the disciples were apparently bragging on the temple buildings. The temple was the symbol that God was with the Jews. Jesus seemingly unimpressed tells the disciples that the temple complex would soon be utterly destroyed. This bothered the disciples enough, that when they were sitting on the Mount of Olives, they asked Jesus when this destruction would take place.

Jesus proceeds to give warnings in the form of parables to the disciples. He warns them that they will generally be able to discern from signs that His coming is near. He also told them that the precise time of his coming in power and glory is not known by them or the angels, but by the heavenly father. He them warns them to be ready.

Here he uses the illustration of the wedding to convey the incalculable importance of being prepared for his second coming. In ancient Palestine the wedding was the biggest social event in a town. The feast and festivities went on for days and was attended by many people.

The parents of the bridegroom and the bride would agree on the marriage of their children and the dowry would be paid. This was the legal marriage; (2) sometime later, according to their customs, the bridegroom accompanied by his friends would proceed from his home to the home of the bride to claim her as his own. Traditionally, this procession often took place in the middle of the night. The bride, prepared for his coming, would join the procession which would then return to the home of the bridegroom. and (3) friends would join the procession in order to participate in the marriage feast which was held at the home of the bridegroom. Such a feast would often continue for days depending upon the wealth of those involved. Weddings in Palestine had three distinct phases: (1) the legal stage, arranged by the parents, (2) the procession, or the bridegroom claiming his bride, and (3) the marriage feast. This parable illustrates the second phase the wedding procession.

This parable teaches at least three important principles that we must remember in order to prepare for His return

I Because not all who profess Jesus have the Savior (1-2)

Because of the fate of the foolish bridesmaids, we have to interpret the kingdom of heaven here as the realm of professing Christians. Most of the time the bridegroom would come in the night to receive his bride. The day prior had been spent in preparation and a convenient time for those involved would be the night. The virgins gathered their lamps and prepared for the wait. Since there were no streetlights they had to bring enough oil with them to make it through the night. Notice that all of them took their lamps out to wait for the bridegroom; they all had on the required wedding garments, but Jesus labels five as wise and five as foolish. What distinguished a wise virgin from a foolish virgin? It was not their outer appearance, but their preparedness to meet the bridegroom.

All of them claimed to love the appearing of the bridegroom, but their inward unprepared-ness is obvious in that they had not oil. A lamp without oil is as useless as an outward profession of faith without an inward possession. Only a person in this situation is in far more danger because they will be eternally separated from God at Jesus’ coming.

The symbolic meaning of oil is well established in Scripture as referring to the Holy Spirit, especially as one who sanctifies and sets apart individuals for God, and who reveals the truth of God to believers. The anointing of kings and priests in the Old Testament is a well established custom. Likewise, oil fed the lamps in the Holy place of the tabernacle and temple, providing illumination for the work of the priests and visual comprehension of the many typical aspects of the tabernacle and temple as they represent the glories of Christ. 

The oil is similar to the wedding garments mentioned in Matthew 22:1-13. The king prepared a big wedding feast for his son and had one condition for those attending. They had to wear the wedding garments that the king provided for them. This symbolizes divinely appointed grace bestowed upon man apart from which no one can come to God.  The presumptuous man showed up in garments of his choosing and was cast out into the darkness.

Like the man without the wedding garments, the five foolish virgins showed up without the proper oil for their lamps. They are like the men mentioned in (2 Timothy 3:5, KJV) "Having a form of godliness. They were committed to God intellectually, emotionally, socially, but had no inner regeneration. (James 2:17, KJV) "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."  They had the form of godliness but inside they were dead.

Jesus repeatedly warned in the Gospels that professing Christians are like the wheat and tares...Indistinguishable until the Day of Judgment. Professing Christians are like the four kinds of soil. Some spring up in enthusiasm and seem to grow, but they quickly fade. Others’ spiritual darkness is seen by the fact that the Word is choked out by the cares of this world. Genuine Christians take root in the Word and grow. Professing believers are seen as sheep and goats, wise and foolish builders, and wicked servants. Jesus message was not popular in his day and it is not popular today.

INTER:   So how do you know that you have salvation and not outward conformity?

First, You are changed
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV)

Second, You have love
"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20, KJV)

Third, You have confidence
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." (1 John 5:7, KJV)

Fourth, You have growth
"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4, KJV)

Fifth, You are obedient
"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (1 John 2:4, KJV)

Sixth, You have a relationship with God as opposed to ritual
"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:" (1 John 1:6, KJV)

II Because Jesus’ return will be unexpected (6)


A       Jesus will tarry before his return
The midnight return of the bridegroom underscores the unexpectedness of the return of Christ. It is interesting to note that the exodus of the Children of Israel began at midnight in Exodus 12:29.

B       His return will be sudden
When the bridegroom finally came, all the virgins stood up and trimmed their lamp in preparation for the journey in the night. It was at this time that the foolish virgins realized their predicament. Apparently they had no oil at all for they said, “Our lamps are going out.”

III  Because, One Day it will be too late (8-12)

Why they had not prepared ahead is a mystery. It was not as though they were unaware that they had oil. It was not until they heard the cry that the bridegroom was coming, did they become concerned about the oil. Maybe they though they had enough time to run to the store and buy some oil? Maybe they thought that they could borrow the oil, like they were trying to do now. The reason they did not get the oil is irrelevant, because now the bridegroom was here. They had ample time to prepare because they knew the bridegroom was coming.

When Jesus Christ comes to gather his saints many professed Christians will frantically realize their lack of spiritual life. We who profess to be Christians would do well to heed the advice that Paul gave the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?  But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.”

A       The mere association with Christ is not enough
The point of the wise bridesmaids is not that they were selfish and calloused, but rather that they were helpless to provide the oil. Certainly the foolish virgins are like some who think that to get into heaven. Or the simple fact that they are born into a Christian family will get them into heaven.

B       Spiritual life cannot be borrowed
Just as physical life cannot be borrowed from another person, spiritual like cannot be borrowed either. This was the point of the rejection of the oil. Jesus is clearly saying that on cannot borrow spiritual life.

C       Spiritual life cannot be bought
 The teaching is clear. One cannot buy their way into heaven. Jesus Said in Matt. 7:22-23 that “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.”

IV Conclusion

It will be a moment of sheer terror when unbelievers face the eternal God only to realize that it is too late for their souls. They will now spend eternity in damnation. It is probably like the people in Noah’s day who were locked out of the ark at the time the rains began to fall.

Yes, this parable commenting on the second coming of Jesus, but the truth is the same for any unbeliever who dies without Christ. The time of no one’s death is certain. But we know that it is appointed unto man once to die.

Jesus for the fifth time in the Olivet Discourse tells them to “Watch therefore.” We do not know the hour or the day of Christ’s coming, but we can be ready. Jesus had earlier warned the people in the temple, "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:34-36, KJV)

Life is full of uncertainties. We are not certain who will win the election later this year. We are uncertain what will become of America in the future. We are uncertain of how our children will turn out or how were or going to die.

But we are certain that we will die and that we will stand before God. All of us here can be certain that we will live with Jesus forever in heaven. Are you certain. Are you certain that you will live in heaven forever?

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