The Bible always wants us to be prepared to face death, to face judgment, to face Jesus' coming.
42 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.
44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
The Bible talks in different places about us get ready in our spiritual lives. It is one thing to become a Christian, to feel saved, to feel, 'Oh, salvation has come into my life'. It's another thing to be ready at any time in our lives to meet Jesus, to face death. It's funny how we get ready for many things. For marriage - the recently married couple will tell for how many months they had been preparing to get married. For exams - the students will tell how eagerly they prepare. They take out all the books, remembers all what the teacher has said to prepare for the exam. We all prepare for different things - to cook, to go for a movie. But this is an important preparation we need to make in our lives.
One thing about spiritual preparation is that we are always confident that we are prepared. Many times we sit in the church and think we are prepared for anything. Sometimes we can be over confident that spiritually we are well prepared but something can go wrong in our lives.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,
2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
3 While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
Paul says that we must not take things for granted but instead let us be alert and self-controlled.
2 Peter 3:10-12
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
Peter is saying that whatever we have built, whatever we have gathered is going to be destroyed. So we need to live holy and reverent lives.
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Jesus also addressed this to the church in Sardis.
It is true that we must face Jesus one day. One day we have to die. Death is so real and we all have to face death and judgement. The thing is that we feel all this is a long time away. This feeling may keep us from being prepared in our lives. Today, Jesus wants us to be prepared, not outwardly but inside. What Jesus wants us to do in Matthew 24 is explained in a simple parable in Matthew 25.
1 "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.
4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.
5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
7 "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.
8 The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'
9 "'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.'
10 "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.
11 "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'
12 "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'
13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
1. Now you have the time
There were the ten virgins and all of them were eager to meet the bridegroom. Jesus is the bridegroom and we are all excited, getting ready to meet him. Right now we have time. Sometimes in our lives we can be very busy because time is so precious. We are doing one thing or the other. Think about all the things we do. Think about our life from morning to evening. It's amazing how time passes. We are doing something or the other all the time. We are going here and there, always active. Either sleeping or awake, time is going. We are all into time but we may miss the most important thing. This parable is very interesting in that the virgins had so much time as they waited for the bridegroom to come but they fell asleep. They had so much time to prepare but they fell asleep. Sometimes we feel we have arrived, we know everything. We may miss the most important thing in our lives i.e. to be prepared to meet Jesus.
What is the 'oil' in our lives and how should we be prepared? Solomon in his wisdom talked about many things - the riches of this world, achievements, fame. When we read Ecclesiastics we can learn from Solomon that we have time to achieve everything in our lives. Ultimately, in Ecclesiastics 12:13, Solomon concludes in a beautiful way what is more important. Fear God and keep his commandments. It is for us to individually decide what is that something we are spiritually lacking, with what we are not prepared. Our attitude should be, 'Can I ask somebody what I need to change in?' That is how we'll know what we need to change in our lives and how we can be prepared. One thing is definite now we have a lot of time. Every day - morning, noon and night - we have so much of time to prepare to meet Jesus. This is the time we must decide. The parable makes it very clear that we have time, we can make time and we must make time.
2. Beware! All look alike from outside
One of the most striking facts of this parable is how similar these ten virgins appeared on the surface. All had been invited to the banquet and all had responded positively. All ten had gone out to wait for the bridegroom - not just five but all of them. All of them had their lamps with them. All the virgins were eager to see the bridegroom. They were all at the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. All of them wanted to go to the wedding banquet. They were eager because they knew that a banquet was to be held so they found the place and reached there on time. All had some oil in their lamps in the beginning - it's not as if they went there without oil.
All fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom. It's not as if some were so righteous that they were eagerly keeping awake. All of them fell asleep. All of them were awakened by the midnight cry. All ten virgins got up to prepare their lamps. It's amazing how everything seemed so similar. People everywhere and all look alike. We won't know who has oil and who does not have oil or how much oil each has or doesn't have. It's important we know where we stand. It's not what is on the outside that matters but what's on the inside.
We may do so many things in our lives but if this is our heart then nothing remains. It's important to understand that as Christians we can fall into this trap. Let us not compare ourselves with others. Let's not look at people outwardly. It's the inside that's important. How much spiritual strength are we carrying today? If Jesus calls us today, how will we face him? Every one of us know what is happening in our lives morning to evening in our hearts, our thoughts, our minds. What happened yesterday or in the past one month or year or since our baptism. We all know very well but are we prepared to meet Jesus. Sometimes we fall into the trap of self-righteousness. We need to guard ourselves against these little things which can distract us from our preparation to meet Jesus.
We are individually responsible and we must take this to heart. Why did the foolish virgins not take extra oil? They had all the time, they knew they had to because they saw the others taking extra oil but they were negligent. They thought they had enough, they thought the bridegroom would come soon and that the others were foolishly taking along extra oil, which would not be used. Maybe they thought that in their hearts. Today, we may look at somebody else who is doing spiritually well and say to ourselves, 'I am satisfied with what I am doing' and not be eager to learn from others what they are doing. We need to understand that we are responsible. That is why Jesus said, 'Deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow me daily' and not 'once in a while'. It's a little difficult to be prepared all the time. To take up the cross and follow Jesus is not easy but. That is the calling.
Wise virgins took the oil because they were prepared, they knew what the expectation was, and they knew the bridegroom may be delayed. Jesus is saying again and again, through the scriptures, that we will not know because he will come like a thief. So, let's wake up and do what is important in our lives.
3. Beware, it may be too late!
In this parable we see that though all the virgins were asleep, the call came at midnight that the bridegroom was coming. Somebody was sufficiently awake to warn everyone about the bridegroom's coming. It is because of this that they awoke and started trimming their lamps. We need to understand that sometimes we may think we have enough 'oil'.
When the foolish virgins realized they had no oil they started pleading with others for some oil. They woke up at the last minute and they must have thought, 'I don't have but look at her. She has some'.
Sometimes we are very confident and think, 'I have a great wife. She's very spiritual. All her prayers always get answered by God. Do you think I'll be left alone by God? I'm going to be a package deal with her. If she is there, I'm also there'. Sometimes we think of ourselves as a spiritual group, a church, a son or daughter of so and so. "We are together as a family. Wow! What a family I belong to. How can I go wrong? I was brought up so well. My father and mother were so good. I was brought up this way and that way".
That's how we think sometimes, that God is going to take us as a bundle - all together. This parable tells us that we are on our own. It may be too late for us. Once it is too late, the doors will be shut. It is very important for us to see which side of the door we'll be when the door is shut. Will we be on this side of the door or on that side of the door?
These virgins were pleading to be let in. They tried even at the last minute to go and buy some oil. They were good-hearted people and not bad hearted. They were a little unprepared and look what happened. They took advice from the other virgins and went to buy some oil at that late hour but the bridegroom had already come. As Jesus warned, definitely he is going to come like a thief in our lives. We don't know when we will have to meet Jesus. It may be today. It may be in the next ten years. It may be in the next 50 years but it is our duty to be prepared every single day of our lives.
So we must take a look at where we are. The most important point of this parable is that of readiness. Are you ready?
The five foolish virgins were not ready for the bridegroom's arrival because they had not made sure that they would have enough oil to keep their lamps burning. We need to look at our own lives and understand what is the oil with which we need to be prepared today. To be prepared we need to have spiritual strength, enough spiritual oil. It may be different for different people.